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City Seizes Tiny Houses Built For The Homeless

One of the tiny homes built by Elvis Summers for the homeless (via Facebook)
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Small houses built and donated to homeless people are being seized by the city as part of a street cleanup effort in South Los Angeles.The colorfully-painted wooden homes—roughly the size of a parking space—were constructed by Elvis Summers as part of a crowdfunded campaign to provide portable shelter to homeless individuals across L.A. But not everyone is a fan of the mobile homes, including many City Council members, who argue that they are unsafe and not a valid solution to addressing the city's growing homeless population. Earlier this month, several of the houses in South L.A. were confiscated as part of street cleanup requested by the office of Councilman Curren Price, and now seven more are planned for impound today, reports the L.A. Times.

"When the city took the houses, they didn't offer housing, they straight kicked them out," Summers told the Times. Summers was out on Wednesday with a flat-bed trailer, attempting to move many of the houses he built that were being used beneath Harbor Freeway bridges into storage. Along with other supporters of the single-room structures, Summers argues that they provide a simple and safer alternative to sleeping on the sidewalk, exposed to the elements. "These people are beaten down so hard, you give them any opportunity to be normal, it lifts them up," he added.

The houses that were taken earlier this month were moved to a city equipment lot, but will ultimately be destroyed, according to sanitation spokeswoman Elena Stern. Stern said authorities destroyed drug setups and seized a gun from one or more of the houses during the previous sweep.

"Unfortunately, these structures can be hazardous to the individuals living in them and to the community at large," explained Connie Llanos, Mayor Eric Garcetti's spokeswoman, in a statement on the mayor's behalf. She says the mayor is committed to moving the homeless into permanent housing, not makeshift shelters. Last year, the city passed two strict ordinances that made dismantling homeless camps easier, but the mayor and other opponents have been working to block or modify enforcement of the ordinances.

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While clearing the tiny houses, the city reportedly took away the occupants' possessions, but left behind larger items like mattresses and chairs. The homeless can supposedly retrieve their belongings from the city's Skid Row storage bin, but Summers says many of the possessions have been reported missing.