A 16 percent countywide increase in homelessness is evident in Hollywood, with encampments popping up 1on sidewalks and in open spaces along busy thoroughfares and near the Hollywood (101) Freeway.
The increase is causing concern about crime and a lack of services, and has prompted city officials and stakeholders to look at ways to address homelessness.
For many, including the Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, the situation is reaching a critical point. Morrison said her organization has routinely documented the number of homeless people in Hollywood since 2013, and has observed a dramatic increase.
When the first count was taken on June 30, 2013, 121 homeless people were counted in the areas on and around Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, and Vine Street. In 2014, the number increased to 216 individuals, and in 2015, 295 people were living on the streets in the area.
“That’s a more than 140 percent increase in two years,” Morrison said. “It kind of confirms what we have all been seeing.”
With encampments in public areas, the city council has approved ordinances that will allow authorities to remove belongings from sidewalks and parks within 24 hours. However, the plan has been placed on hold at the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti until the council can examine ways to address the removal of critical items, such as medication and important documents. A council committee on homelessness is expected to address the issue when the council reconvenes next week after summer recess, but an exact date has not been scheduled.
Until the issue is resolved, authorities are following the previous rules that require the city to first provide outreach and 72-hours notice to homeless individuals before removing belongings. Once the items are removed, they are stored in a warehouse downtown for 90 days. If the items are not claimed by the owner, they are discarded.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, who represents Hollywood, said it is important to continue searching for more resources and methods to address homelessness.
“The homeless issue must be tackled in a multi-pronged fashion. It is no longer a challenge we only see in certain pockets of our city. Partnerships with the community, government agencies and service providers must continue toward reaching the goal of housing those who want it and addressing the other personal challenges this population faces,” O’Farrell said. “We can and must do more. It has been my priority to find a permanent revenue stream for more affordable housing and I am committed to working with the mayor and my council colleagues to reach a sustainable, compassionate and effective solution.”
Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, said he has noticed a visible increase in homelessness in his district, and plans to address the issue in the coming weeks. Ryu said he will chair the council’s health, mental health and education committee, which will work closely with the committee on homelessness to find solutions.
“I want to look at ways to connect [people] with services,” Ryu said “[Many] homeless people have mental health, substance abuse and alcohol abuse issues. Our system is broken. We need a better connection to services for those who are homeless and are mentally ill.”
Naomi Goldman, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, confirmed that Hollywood represents a microcosm of the problems occurring countywide. She said a homeless count conducted earlier this year determined there were 41,174 homeless people in the county in 2015, compared to 35,524 in 2013. In addition to issues involving encampments and items belonging to homeless individuals, the focus should be on identifying permanent housing and connecting individuals to services.
Morrison said she agrees, and added the information her organization gathered will be presented to city officials in an attempt to find ways to end homelessness.
“This is something we are documenting so we can communicate it with our public officials,” Morrison added. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all problem and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
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