A Cleanup Crackdown Is Set Around LA's New Homeless Shelter
Homeless people living near Los Angeles' new bridge housing site near Union Station woke up Wednesday to an increased presence of police, city sanitation workers and homeless outreach employees.
City officials and law enforcement went tent-to-tent to remind them about the previously announced sweeps within the new "Special Enforcement and Cleaning Zone" around the El Pueblo site. Those efforts are meant to appease neighborhood concerns about the planned surge of shelters and prevent new encampments from popping up.
The rules aren't being enforced quite yet, and it's unclear when they will be, but they include a number of restrictions, including prohibiting homeless tents from going up between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. There'll also be restrictions on oversized property along city sidewalks. Anything that doesn't fit inside a 60-gallon container (with the lid closed) could be confiscated.
The Legal Aid Foundation, a law firm representing poor and low-income Angelenos, wrote a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti saying the sweeps are "unconstitutional" and allow for the "seizure and destruction of individuals' belongings without affording them any legal protections."
"Each time (L.A.) has faced litigation, rather than working with homeless individuals and advocates to develop constitutional strategies to address the public health needs of the community, the City has chosen to legislate around the margins of court orders to continue to seize and destroy individuals' belongings," Legal Aid Foundation staff wrote.
But Garcetti's top homelessness adviser, Christina Miller, says that's not their goal.
"The goal is not to confiscate anyone's belongings," Miller said in an interview with A Martinez for KPCC's Take Two. "It's honestly just to balance the needs of folks who need to walk down the sidewalk, with understanding that people who live outside and are working towards a solution, don't always have enough places to put their belongings."
The city is currently set to battle a federal lawsuit next year after several homeless people filed claims arguing L.A.'s sanitation and police departments violated their constitutional rights by seizing and destroying their property on Skid Row.
Miller also said that because of the amount of outreach being done, about 10 homeless people have recently moved into nearby shelters or into permanent housing directly from the streets near the El Pueblo site. And later this month, two people currently at the shelter will be moving into permanent housing, which will free up a couple beds.
At least 15 shelters are planned under the mayor's "A Bridge Home" initiative (one per council district). In addition to beds, these sites make available showers, counseling and medical and mental health services.
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