Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer hosted the inaugural citation clinic for homeless youth Wednesday at Covenant House of California, a nonprofit in Hollywood dedicated to getting young people off the streets.
The clinic is part of a City Attorney’s Office program in which representatives visit local communities to work with homeless individuals to expunge citations and warrants from their records. In exchange for having citations removed, individuals must perform community service and accept resources such as housing and mental health treatment. The first of the clinics targeting homeless youth also included a resource fair with local service providers.
“The growing number of homeless youth in Hollywood, and across our city, is a continuing crisis we must all address,” Feuer said. “This citation clinic, focused on homeless youth, is designed to empower them to break the cycle of homelessness and get them on a path to a brighter future.”
The City Attorney’s Office, in partnership with Los Angeles County, has been holding citation clinics for homeless individuals for the past year, including one in January in Hollywood. Feuer added that future clinics for homeless youth are planned in Venice, Sylmar and Long Beach. Approximately 100 people are served at each clinic, Feuer said. In addition to traffic citations, the clinics offer help with citations for misdemeanor crimes such as loitering, drinking in public and sleeping on sidewalks.
Daley Barnwell, a Baltimore native who moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and ended up homeless, said the citation clinic is an important resource for young people seeking to get their lives back on track.
Barnwell said he made arrangements for a job and a place to stay before coming to California, but the plans fell through and he found himself homeless for approximately one month.
“[The homeless youth citation clinic] is extremely important because it removes one of the major barriers for youth. Citations can be removed, and it lets them focus on bettering themselves,” Barnwell added. “I know a lot of people who could benefit from this.”
Barnwell stayed with friends and found Covenant House of California online. The organization helped him get back on his feet. He now has a place to stay and works for the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership, an organization based at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that links homeless individuals to services.
Ami Rowland, associate executive director of Covenant House of California, said the nonprofit worked with other service providers to inform people about the citation clinic. Although it targeted homeless youth, homeless individuals of any age were welcomed.
Rowland added that outreach is an important part of Covenant House of California’s mission. The organization provides emergency shelter, housing, case management and numerous other services.
“It’s the first time we have had it here, and this is a good spot,” Rowland said. “We are right in the middle of Hollywood. Every year, we serve thousands of homeless youth and help them get off the streets of L.A.”
Additional service providers at the clinic included the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, which offered information on job training; Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and DMH Housing Services, which provided resources on housing; Step Up On Second and My Friend’s Place, which linked people with mental heath services; and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which provided information for LGBT homeless youth.
Jess Nuñez and Martha Gonzalez, of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center on Highland, said homelessness among LGBT youth is alarming. Many LGBT youth are afraid to appear before a judge because they fear discrimination, Gonzalez added. The citation clinic gave them an opportunity to move forward.
“A lot of people in the LGBT community don’t feel comfortable going to court so they don’t take care of tickets,” she added. “I think [the citation clinic] is important because not a lot of [programs] focus on LGBT youth.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, also praised the clinic and Covenant House of California’s work. He said the city is committed to addressing youth homelessness and working with the City Attorney’s Office on the citation clinics.
“They don’t need some minor infraction hanging over their heads when they are trying to get their lives together. It’s a great way to help homeless youth,” O’Farrell said. “I am pleased to partner with our city attorney, Covenant House and other supportive services in Hollywood to provide this incredible resource to the most vulnerable in our community. Far too often we see young people, particularly LGBT youth, kicked out of their homes. There is nothing more important than doing whatever we can to ensure these Angelenos have the foundation for stability and a successful life.”
O’Farrell added that he is also working on a program to secure jobs for youth from Covenant House of California at the nearby Target store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue now that the city has cleared the way for construction on the store to resume.
For information on future citation clinics or getting involved, call (213)978-1937, email email@example.com, or visit www.lacityattorney.org.
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