We all know there is way too many homeless folks nowdays and the beaches seems to the only area they are allowed to hangout and sleep. We were not approach one time for anything. Seems folks around here just want to leave you alone so you leave them alone. There are exceptions to those who might suffer from mental illness. Now, having a mental illness does not mean they are going to hurt you. If fact 99% are harmless. We did encounter a gentleman roaming the parking lots speaking very loudly to himself using colorful "Metaphors" as Spock would say. At one point I thought they were aimed at us, but when he thought we were not paying attention to him, he went the other way. I will tell you being a mother of a special needs child this breaks my heart. Way too many folks with special needs should NOT be on the streets by themselves or not even looked at. I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure that never happens to my son.
Santa Monica has lots and lots of homeless people. It's a serious issue for the city. They congregate in large numbers along the beachfront. Although I found them to be completely harmless and non-threatening, there are a large number of crazies among them whose erratic behaviour can be unnerving. I walked around Santa Monica day and night, and they were always there, but never posed a problem to me.
I am a homeless woman living in Santa Monica. Yes I panhandle. Yes I sleep on the street. Yes, my friends and I hang out at Palisades Park and the 3rd Street Promenade. But we are not dangerous. We are not drug addicts. We are respectable, honorable, honest people who are tired as hell of being persecuted and looked down upon because of our living situation. We get showers every other day, we take care of ourselves. I know this is not true of all of Santa Monica's homeless population, but I felt a strong need to speak up. The Santa Monica Police Department do nothing but harass us all day, for sleeping in the park, sitting on the sidewalk, sitting the wrong way on the Promenade (no joke). They are the real villains, not us.
There are a lot of bums hanging out on the beach in Santa Monica, and it is very apparent that some of them have not had a shower in days if not weeks.
If you go first thing in the morning you will encounter a lot of them sleeping. I suggest staying away from the beach at night as they are most likely going to beg for money or harrass you in their drunkenness.
Avoid drunken homeless (or anybody overly stoned-out on American pharmaceuticals or illigel substances) but most homeless are just looking for a meal etc. It is true that Santa Monica seems more "uncertain" than in olden days. Been there since the sixties since my family was there in the 30s; a move to Santa Monica in the late 70s found me hanging in Venice beach day and at night; cool. Roller skate or walk all hours with very little trouble--even for ladies. "Freak on the Good Times!" Thanks le Chic.
On a shoe-string visit in 1996 to save some buck I strayed to an area not seen much(near interstate 10) to look for a hotel. Found a budget place and there were about 15 stoners listening to metal in the forecourt with bottles of gallo wine. Bravado-- I did not walk away and got the room while they watched; a bit loud yes, but slept and nobody kicked the door in. I recommend caution but never exude fear if events seem dodgy--maybe it looks bad but is....just a party going down.
2003 and back to me favourite cafe/burger bar on the beach listening to chilled acoustic guitar with son in tow early evening; afterwards contemplated taking a walk; got about 100 meters, and turned around (I did not feel like risking a son to prove a point) went back to the rented car (no worries; bet the odds on the new Mustang getting snatched in 60 sec., since this is Venice beach circa '03) but no problemo. Other bars/Americano eateries off the main roads near the beach rocked on with great crowds and food (at night). Happy to check it out.
I visited Santa Monica beach 4/14/04. Met "Father Dollar" a Local Priest that hands out dollar bills and gives prayer every wednesday to the homeless. Met a lot of homeless folks too. They were very nice and respectful. I have read many of the tips here on this site about the bewares- homeless. and I cannot say that I felt in danger at all. These people were much more friendly than the Asian store owners and residents that I encountered in LA. and to tell you the Honest to god's truth a few of the Asian store owners were the one's that ripped me off with overcharging on my bill!! As I pulled up to the meter on the beach front a homeless man told me- "watch the meter they'll ticket you 1 minute after the 2 hour parking limit". The Asians never even made eye contact with me!! let alone offered any inside tips of the city!!!
As with other cities, Santa Monica has its share of the homeless. You'd see them on the Pacific Palisades which is a strip of a park fronting the beach. You see a lot of them on 3rd Street Promenade itself.
Generally, they leave you alone. So don't worry. Thankfully, I had no nasty encounters with any.
Watch out for street muggers etc. Along the beach, the hotels are nice, but they attract a seedy element as well. There are people living on the beach, and just a few streets up when I went to buy a bottle of wine I felt like I stepped into the south side of Chicago.
P.S. A couple of years ago a german tourist was killed while walking with his friends in front of the Loews Hotel in a violent mugging.
Keep your purses closed and on your person. Lock your bikes. that's just common sense. Lots of homeless - they are not the thieves, but where would YOU live if you were homeless? Yes! At the beach. As for the beach, swim north or south of Venice/Santa Monica beaches as they get a bit crowded sometimes.