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Approximately 40 people living in tents along Sixth Street behind the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Academy Museum began moving indoors on Feb. 16 after interim housing units were identified as part of Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky, 5th District, said finding housing for people in the encampment was a priority since she took office in December, and she worked with the mayor’s office to identify space in a Silver Lake hotel being used as interim housing. She stressed that it was a partnership that also included Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez, who represents the 13th District where the hotel is located, as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and private service providers. The plan was to provide outreach and services until interim housing was identified, and then move people as expeditiously as possible indoors and into the pipeline for services.
“This was a first priority for the district,” Yaroslavsky said. “We asked the mayor, and she agreed, that given the visibility of it and the fact that it was growing, it was time to make this a priority.”
“Inside Safe is about putting quick fixes aside,” Bass said. “Together with the county and service providers, this new program is a real solution that proves there is hope in Los Angeles. Together, we will confront this crisis by bringing unhoused Angelenos inside for good.”
Bass and Yaroslavsky visited the encampment on the morning of Feb. 16 as outreach workers helped people get organized and board a bus to take them to the hotel. The city also cleared the tents and debris. Yaroslavsky said she hopes it brings relief to the people in the encampment and to the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is one of L.A.’s great cultural icons right here, and you have thousands of people living right here,” she added, pointing south toward LACMA and the Academy Museum, and north toward Park La Brea. “It’s just not OK. Our team came up with a list of priority encampments and worked with the mayor’s office, and this was our number one priority. This is the first Inside Safe site in the district. We’re hoping to be moving down the list very soon.”
The councilwoman declined to identify other specific encampments because they will be addressed case-by-case when housing is located. She said it is part of the larger approach to ensuring there are places for people to go, as opposed to clearing encampments and moving people from neighborhood to neighborhood.
“There’s a bunch of work that needs to happen across the city to get people off the streets. And at the same time, we as a city need to be enacting policies to keep people from falling into homelessness in the first place,” Yaroslavsky said. “It’s big picture. Tenant protections, homelessness prevention, anti-poverty programs, childcare, better wages, job training. These are all the ways that we’re going to keep people housed.”
The encampment had been located along Sixth Street since approximately last November. Yaroslavsky said there were 19 people living at the site when outreach workers visited on Feb. 11-12, and the city began the process to get them into housing. When word spread, more unhoused people arrived and the encampment grew, which was anticipated. The city designated enough spaces at the hotel to include everyone at the site.
Yaroslavsky said it was “heartbreaking” to see conditions in the encampment. A woman who is eight-months pregnant was among the people there, she said. A man who lived in the encampment previously lived in Park La Brea before falling into homelessness, and stayed in the encampment because he was familiar with the neighborhood, she added.
“It was terrible,” Yaroslavsky said. “It was unacceptable.”
The spaces in the hotel will be available for at least one month, during which time the mayor’s office and LAHSA will work to locate permanent housing, Yaroslavsky added.
Fencing has been placed along the sidewalk where the encampment was located. Plans are being formulated for landscaping and streetscape improvements to beautify the sidewalk along Sixth Street and make it less conducive to camping.
Eddie Hernandez, who became homeless after he lost his job during the pandemic, said he has been living on the streets in the Miracle Mile area for the past two years. He said he was among a group of people who were previously living in tents in front of the La Brea Tar Pits and relocated to Sixth Street after the city designated the space along Wilshire Boulevard as a no camping zone last fall under city ordinance 41.18. The ordinance prohibits camping within 500 feet of sensitive areas and buildings.
“I was up in front by the tar pits but they kicked us out of there and we came over here,” Hernandez said. “A lot of us don’t have a plan yet, but I have a plan because I want to get back up. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke anymore – nothing. This is all kind of new to me, but now it’s time to heal, you know, and get back on the horse.”
Yaroslavsky said the fact that people who were previously staying in front of the tar pits moved behind the Academy Museum when the city designated that area as a no camping zone illustrates the flaw in that approach to addressing homelessness. As soon as one place is designated as a no camping zone, people move to another location, she said. If there are places for people to go, she will support creating no camping zones on a case-by case basis.
“We need to be pairing 41.18 enforcement with credible offers of housing and services if we want to meaningfully solve this problem,” Yaroslavsky said. “This has to be a regional approach. We need all 88 cities in the county working together on it. Otherwise, it’s Whac-A-Mole.”
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