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Housing and Homelessness

Private Storage Places May Be The Answer To Get Unhoused People To Finally Accept Shelter

A makeshift lean-to shelter covered in tarps and blankets and surrounded with wood planks and other materials stands on a dusty sidewalk.
Makeshift shelters alongside Penmar Golf Course in Venice.
(Chava Sanchez
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The Los Angeles City Council will explore how to get private storage facilities involved in helping store the belongings of people experiencing homelessness, according to a motion introduced at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The motion was introduced by Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, whose 7th District represents neighborhoods such as Pacoima, Sun Valley and Mission Hills. The motion asks the city administrative officer, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the city’s Dept. of General Services to explore contracts with private companies since the city doesn’t have enough storage and there is already “an entire industry dedicated to providing facilities for the storage of private property.”

One of the biggest challenges to get people living on the streets to accept shelter is getting them to leave behind their personal belongings and being able to access belongings that can’t be taken to their temporary housing, according to Rodriguez.

Laura McKinney, a spokesperson for Rodriguez, said the motion is headed to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee for approval before it appears before the entire council. No date is set for when it will be heard in committee.

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McKinney said that limited access to storage space isn’t a problem exclusive to District 7 and that Rodriguez believes the proposal should enjoy the support of her colleagues: “Utilizing private storage facilities is a no-nonsense solution to a long standing issue when land and space is at a premium.”

Unhoused people I spoke with in Hollywood said they often turn down shelter because they aren’t able to keep their belongings and wouldn’t be able to afford replacements once they receive housing.

On Tuesday, the city council adopted the Homeless Street Engagement Strategy, which provides a framework to offer street-based services and connections to housing for unhoused people in Los Angeles. A large part of that strategy means the city will only clear encampments in public spaces after there is documented street engagement and an offer of housing.

Read our explainer to learn about the origins of the anti-camping law that prompted the calls for reimagining street engagement.