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The Echo Park Lake Homeless Community Is Bracing For The City To Clear The Park

Protesters prepare for a city cleanup at a homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake in February 2020. (Sharon McNary/LAist)
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Editor's Note: This story was updated on the morning of Wednesday, March 24.

Homeless residents and advocates are bracing for the city of Los Angeles to close Echo Park Lake and clear a tent community that has become a flashpoint in the debate about the city’s policies towards homeless encampments.

The coalition of community organizations, Services Not Sweeps, and people who live at the park say they have heard from sources at the city that the announcement to shut the park down will come later Wednesday and will presumably include a timeline for evictions.

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"They're doing it all in secret," said Ayman Ahmed, who added that he has lived at the lake for more than a year.

Read More About Wednesday's Protest: Echo Park Lake Homeless Community On Park Closure: 'This Won't Be Easy' >>

Tony Arranaga, a spokesperson for City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the area, would not confirm the timing but indicated a closure was imminent.

"We are working with several City departments to temporarily close the park to repair more than half-a-million dollars in damage," Arranaga said. "When the official notice of the closure is posted by the Department of Recreation and Parks, our office will alert the public and the media."

Arranaga emphasized that O'Farrell had partnered with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to place "more than 100 people living at the lake into safe housing and shelter" in recent weeks through Project Roomkey, Project Homekey, and shorter term shelter beds.

"[The park] will close soon, and notices will go up, and then we’ll all know," O’Farrell said today at an unrelated press conference when asked about the rumored city cleanup.

Ahmed estimates the current population of the encampment on the north side of the park to be about 50 people. That doesn't include people living in cars and RVs parked around the lake. He's planning on joining his neighbors and advocacy groups at a 7 a.m. protest on Wednesday.

Eviction rumors have been swirling for weeks, overshadowing a recent wedding ceremony between two lake residents.

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Last January, park residents asked for a meeting with O'Farrell and protesters blocked cleanup crews, fearing sanitation workers and park rangers would discard tents and other belongings.

COVID-19 brought a respite, according to a statement from the Echo Park Tent Community.

"The biggest pandemic in years actually turned out to be a blessing for us," the statement said. "Without the constant LAPD and city harassment uprooting our lives we've been able... to come together as a community, not just unhoused but housed as well, and work together for the mutual aid and benefit of each other."

Ahmed called the city's plan to clear the park a short-term bandage that won't fix the larger problem — a lack of affordable housing in the city of L.A.

"For every person [sheltered], two more come with no tent, no blankets, with nothing — and we provide help," Ahmed said. "It's a homeless epidemic. And this [sweep] is purely for PR and purely for Mitch [O'Farrell] to get reelected."

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