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Housing and Homelessness

'Stop Putting On A Show For Tourists': LA Residents Sound Off On Homeless Camps Cleanup Efforts Ahead Of Super Bowl

The downtown LA skyline at dusk from San Pedro St. on Skid Row. Tents can be seen on the sidewalk.
The downtown L.A. skyline at dusk as seen from Skid Row.
(Ethan Ward/LAist)
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With the Rams-49ers game happening this Sunday, and the Super Bowl just two weeks later, L.A. and SoFi Stadium are expected to attract huge crowds. Encampment clean-ups have been happening as the games approach.

For some neighbors of SoFi Stadium, such as 35-year-old school teacher Nephatera Dixon, it’s an attempt to hide the city’s homelessness crisis from tourists.

“People are not gonna go to just the SoFi,” Dixon said. “They’re going to go downtown. They’re gonna go to Santa Monica. [There's] still homeless everywhere. So them trying to mask it, putting a bandaid on it, Ooh look, it's pretty … putting on a show for [tourists] who can care anything less about the town you claim that you like.”

The recent interest in encampments where unhoused people live ahead of the Super Bowl underscores a deeper issue for residents of South L.A. who feel it’s a window into a larger issue of inequity in the region. Dixon said the city has long overlooked the city of Inglewood and its housed and unhoused neighbors.

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“Why did it take this giant event for you to [say], Oh, let’s do something about this predominantly Black neighborhood,” Dixon said. “Now you’re trying to do something because of all the billions that will come in. Now y'all wanna pretty it up for the people that’s spending money, when you should have done something about it already for the people already spending money in this neighborhood.”

Dixon said she’s happy that shows such as HBO’s Insecure, created by Issa Rae, helped people see the city of Inglewood in a new light.

“It shouldn't have taken a [TV] show and the Super Bowl to help people,” she said.

Johnnie Raines, 75, who has lived in Los Angeles since 1956, said what’s happening with encampments where unhoused residents live is not surprising. Raines said he noticed the city was cleaning up everything along the 405 freeway to SoFi Stadium, while ignoring clearing and offering help along the 110 freeway to the stadium. He said most people coming into town would likely be coming from the Westside.

“We shouldn't have this conversation in the city of L.A., [which is] spending a fortune to make a fortune on the SuperBowl and the upcoming Olympics,” Raines said. “If we got money to do that, why not more money for people?”

But authorities claim that clean-ups near the stadium or tourist areas such as El Pueblo, near Union Station, have been planned months ahead and are not related to the sports events.

“The El Pueblo housing operation was one that was planned out starting in September,” said Pete Brown, spokesperson for L.A. City Councilmember Kevin de León, whose district includes downtown. “We have housed 93 people and have about another 18 who have turned down multiple offers for housing and storage of their belongings. These efforts have absolutely nothing to do with the Super Bowl, but I understand the suspicion considering what’s going on in Inglewood.”

A spokesperson for CalTrans said camps around the 405 freeway were cleared due to fire safety issues and that unhoused residents were given 72 hours notice.