The Los Angeles Council Committee on Homelessness and Poverty on Wednesday considered a report from the city’s chief legislative analyst and city administrative officer on ways to address encampments and the removal of property left on sidewalks and in other public locations.
The report was presented in response to proposed changes to the city’s ordinances regarding the removal of property, and a request by Mayor Eric Garcetti that two recently approved ordinances include protocols for the removal of important documents and medications from homeless individuals.
The report indicated that the city needs to identify locations citywide where the belongings could be stored within a reasonable proximity to where they are removed, and encourages the exploration of ways to get homeless individuals to voluntarily remove belongings from public areas. The committee approved a recommendation to remove criminal penalties from the ordinances for individuals who refuse to comply with orders to remove belongings.
The committee also considered a motion authored by Councilman Gil Cedillo, and seconded by Councilman David Ryu, that would allow for the immediate clean up of belongings located within 1,000 feet of schools. The committee will continue to weigh options, and will forward the recommendations to the full city council for a review.
David Grahamcaso, a deputy to Councilman Mike Bonin, 11th District, a member of the committee on homelessness and poverty, said the goal is to create an effective way to remove property and reduce blight while addressing the needs of homeless individuals and maintaining dignity. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, said he agrees with that approach, and added that mechanisms need to be in place to address situations when homeless individuals will not voluntarily accept help, and continue to place items in public places.
O’Farrell pointed to the example of a recent clean up his office was involved with near the Hollywood (10) Freeway, where items were removed from a passageway under the freeway.
“It was completely blocked with trash and different stuff, and the next day, it all came back. As soon as we were done, they started trashing it again,” O’Farrell said. “Everyone has responsibilities.”
Until the ordinances approved by the city council are amended, the city is following protocols that provide a 72-hour notice before belongings are removed. The newer ordinances stipulate that a 24-hour notice to be issued before items are confiscated. The belongings are held in a warehouse downtown and if not claimed by the owner within 90 days, the property is destroyed. Property that creates a public safety hazard can be removed immediately.
Despite the situations involving the clean up around the 101 Freeway, O’Farrell said city-sponsored clean up events are a beneficial approach to removing belongings. Last Saturday, his office partnered with the LAPD and student volunteers from the Sunburst Academy for a clean up in the neighborhoods around Beverly Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. The event also included the distribution of information and resources to homeless individuals in the area.
O’Farrell said one of the biggest challenges in addressing homelessness is getting individuals to accept services. He said oftentimes, people refuse services because they do not like the rules that go along with them.
“This is what’s frustrating, there are zero repercussions for individuals who refuse assistance,” O’Farrell said. “At what point do we put some more teeth in compelling people to accept assistance?”
O’Farrell said he will consider a motion calling for property to be removed immediately from within 1,000 feet of schools, and added that schools are locations where special needs should be addressed. He said addressing the mental health and addiction issues associated with homeless is paramount.
Sarah Dusseault, chief of staff for Ryu, said the councilman supports examining the removal of belongings near schools. She added that the mental health component is difficult to address because there are limited resources. Dusseault said the councilman is exploring ways to better implement Laura’s Law, an initiative that allows for court-ordered outpatient treatment for people who are deemed to be suffering from mental health issues.
“[What is needed is] a more comprehensive approach overall to services that can prevent people from becoming homeless,” added Dusseault, who said the issue is personal because she has a brother who has been homeless. “In the first place, access to mental health services has to be a top priority. It has to be about connection to services.”
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