Dozens of East Hollywood residents and stakeholders cleaned up Barnsdall Art Park on Nov. 8, in an effort to reclaim the scenic hilltop park.
More then 60 people, children included, grabbed gloves, plastic bags and shovels and picked up slightly more than 22 cubic yards of garbage in the park. Four medical containers filled with used syringes, flasks, shoes, socks and other unique items were found such as an alarm clock and a diary, according to Tereza Yerimyan, president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council (EHNC).
The park, owned by the city and managed by several agencies, experienced an increase in homeless encampments in 2014.
“Saturday was a great example of the community coming together for a piece of land everyone cares about and everyone loves,” Yerimyan said. “Barnsdall didn’t just have a homeless problem, it had a graffiti problem. It had been hit hard recently.”
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th district, kicked off the event, and gave a proclamation to EHNC vice president Cheron McAleece, who has acted as a liaison between the EHNC, the city and other local agencies to keep the momentum focused on cleaning up East Hollywood. The EHNC had to apply for special permits with the city to conduct the work, according to Yerimyan.
As soon as O’Farrell took office in 2013, he came up with ideas for clean-ups around the 13th District. Separately, the EHNC’s public safety committee, for which McAleece is co-chairwoman, came up with its own local clean-up initiative.
“It’s a perfect fit for my focus on safety and the look and feel of the district,” O’Farrell said.
The councilman said he has a clean team working around the 13th District several times a week and his office holds cleanings on Saturdays in various locations. While those happen, the EHNC also conducts their own.
“East Hollywood is large,” he said. “It’s a bit more amorphous. We need to be mindful of that when we apply resources, for example there are 12 communities in the 13th [District], and East Hollywood is about 30 percent of the district.”
O’Farrell added that he’s “very focused” on East Hollywood because of its size and diversity, and the clean-ups satisfy a common interest among everyone.
Yerimyan said the year-long EHNC-sponsored clean-ups have been successful.
“We’re constantly asking the community where the [next] dump is and the council office field representative is always out asking for areas to clean-up,” she said.
The monthly volunteer crews repeatedly put 40-cubic yard dumpsters to good use with bulky garbage items. In October, volunteers conducted a major clean up in Virgil Village.
Yerimyan reminded residents to download and use the MyLA311 app for phones, by which users can easily report problems to the city, including illegal dumping.
“If you want to do something for your community, you have do it yourself,” she said. “There are people doing big things, but each of us can contribute a little bit.”
Members of the Barnsdall Arts Foundation, Immigrants Charitable Foundation, Kairos Hollywood, Hollywood PAL and members of the East Hollywood Community also participated in the clean-up.
Representatives from People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) handed out flyers about its mission to help provide housing to people in need. PATH is starting a coalition for East Hollywood and Los Feliz to help address the increased homeless population in the two neighboring communities.
“We’re definitely optimistic about anything when the community comes together to address homelessness,” said Ryan Bell, director of community engagement for PATH. “We feel it takes everyone to band together to address homelessness and Barnsdall Art Park is evidence of that. It’s not just the council office’s problem. We all have a stake in the community.”
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