Homeless | Photo by Joel Sappell for the Boulevard Sentinel

Helping the Homeless: An Update

2019 August Editions Featured Front Page Updates

By Matthew Reagan and Mary Lynch

The Problem Grows Worse Despite Efforts

Under pressure to show progress in the face of worsening homelessness, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a report in July on how Los Angeles is responding to the crisis.

The mayor cited several initiatives, including 110 projects “in the pipeline” for permanent supportive housing, many of them made possible by the Proposition HHH bond measure that was approved by voters in 2016. He also noted that 21 bridge-housing projects are currently in development across the city to provide temporary shelter until enough suitable housing can be built.

What does that mean for Northeast L.A? The answer is ‘not much.’ The Boulevard Sentinel looked at data from the mayor’s office on Proposition HHH projects in the NELA zip codes of 90041, 90042 and 90065. The data show only one such project planned in those areas – a 40-unit building for permanent supportive housing at 2453 Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock that is scheduled to open in July, 2021. Data also show that none of the bridge shelters currently under development are in NELA.

The local area does benefit from increased spending by the city, county and state to support social-service outreach teams, public health and mental health programs and other anti-homelessness efforts. But the supply of housing for people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness badly lags demand.

The Sentinel also looked into how local anti-homelessness efforts we have covered in the past are faring.

Here’s what we found:

Emergency Housing at St. Barnabas

On June 11, NELA City Councilmember José Huizar filed a motion asking city officials to explore financing options to use the dormant St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Eagle Rock as emergency housing for some 12 homeless families. The motion was referred to the city council’s Committee on Homelessness and Poverty. There is no timeline for action by the committee, though Joella Hopkins, an aide to Huizar, expressed hope that the motion would be heard in August.

The idea to house families in the church was initially raised with the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) by the Episcopal Diocese; it was also discussed at a community meeting on homelessness held in Eagle Rock in May that drew about 100 people.

Sanitation Facilities

Another motion, introduced by Huizar on July 3, asks relevant city agencies to explore ways to use an auxiliary parking lot for the Eagle Rock Recreation Center to create safer, more sanitary conditions for the homeless. Such uses could include installing mobile showers with toilets on the lot or allowing people who live in their vehicles to park there overnight. The lot, located on Figueroa and adjacent to the 134 Freeway, was identified in community meetings as a potential site for sanitation or shelter services.

This motion is also sitting in the Committee on Homelessness and Poverty with no timeline for actions, according to Hopkins.

Safe Parking

A program to provide secure overnight parking for people who live in their vehicles, has been available since April in Glassell Park. But it has gotten off to a slow start.

Located behind the Senior Center on Verdugo Road, the Safe Parking lot was established by Council District 1 and LAHSA and is administered by two well-regarded nonprofits: Exodus Recovery screens and approves individuals to use the lot and then works to connect them with social services and housing. Shower of Hope provides security and maintenance, as well as sanitation in the form of a portable toilet and handwashing station.

The plan was to start small, with about 10 vehicles per night, and work up to a maximum of 20 vehicles. So far, use on any given night has averaged about six to eight vehicles with six to 12 people, said Mel Tillekeratne, the founder of Shower of Hope. Tillekeratne said organizers are trying to spread the word as he believes many people still do not know that Safe Parking is being offered in the community.

Waste Disposal for RV Dwellers

A program that lets RV dwellers properly dispose of human waste at the North Central Sanitation Yard in Lincoln Heights, a city-owned facility, has been used by only two RVs since its launch in December.

RV dwellers have told outreach workers that they cannot afford the gasoline to get to the yard or that their vehicles are inoperable, said Jose Rodriguez, deputy district director for Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who worked with LAHSA to establish the program.

The poor uptake indicates that waste from RVs is being emptied into streets and gutters where it can cause harm to human health and the environment.

At this point, the L.A. Sanitation department (LASAN) is discussing a mobile waste disposal service that would not require RV dwellers to get to the sanitation yard, said Rodriguez.


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