CityWatch, Nov 20, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 95
The City of Los Angeles is the "Capital of Homelessness" and yet the non-profit groups who endeavor to create and operate Permanent Supportive Housing facilities are left to fend for themselves in communities that want solutions "anywhere but here" to a problem that is most often, simply ignored.
This past week the Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center made another appearance at the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, this time with modifications and adjustments to their proposed facility on the border of the East Hollywood and Silver Lake communities, all in an effort to pick up the approvals of the NC's as they work their way through the process of developing their property and opening a Permanent Supportive Housing facility. One would think that organizations committed to addressing and ending homelessness would be visiting Neighborhood Councils to pick up commendations for their humanitarian work but instead they regularly encounter the "Planning and Land Use" wrath typically reserved for developers who want to circumvent the Community Plan and rack up variances that disrupt the neighborhood.
In fact, based on Hollywood alone, it would seem that the Supportive Housing non-profits would have an easier time getting their projects off the ground if they would simply add a liquor license, incorporate a Medical Marijuana dispensary and wrap the building in Digital Billboards. Based on results, those projects would slide right through the process. But not if the word "homeless" is used.
Periodically, a Permanent Supportive Housing facility opens up to great fanfare and for a day or two it appears that Los Angeles is getting tough on homelessness.
But the brutal reality is: one out a hundred people in LA is homeless. The numbers fluctuate and progress is made but LA is still the "Capital of Homelessness."
Adding insult to injury is the fact that LA will not tolerate homeless cars yet homeless people are simply ignored. Unless they set up camp in their car and then it becomes a violation of the prohibition against living in a motor vehicle. (LAMC Section 85.02 states: "No person shall use a vehicle parked on or standing upon any City street or upon any parking lot owned by the City of Los Angeles or under control of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors as loving quarters either overnight, day-by-day, or otherwise.")
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Councilman Bill Rosendahl introduced a motion that would revise LAMC 85.02, allowing the City of LA to create "discrete and distinct" areas of the city where people would be allowed to park and sleep overnight.
Ideally these "areas" would be supported with restrooms, staffing, security, and social services.
Councilman Richard Alarcon referred to the concept as a "homeless shelter without walls" and the description seemed to earn the approval of Transportation Committee members Paul Koretz and Bernard Parks. As for the motion, it didn't enjoy the same support.
Rosendahl's motion is based on similar "homeless parking lots" conducted in other cities such as Eugene, Oregon and Santa Barbara.
Booker Pearson of Upward Bound House was standing by to offer his commitment to "hosting" the pilot project that was reduced from a citywide proposal to a CD11 proposal by the Transportation Committee.
The idea of setting aside public streets that are "open" to people who will live in their cars is certain to stir passionate and intense debate.
The very notion that parking lots will be used to "park" homeless people will definitely improve attendance at neighborhood council meetings as this proposal is certain to stir great discourse and debate.
Through it all, it's important to remember that doing nothing about homelessness costs more than aggressively acting to provide long-term comprehensive solutions.
As Los Angeles grapples with unemployment, foreclosures and a budget crisis that threatens the stability of the city, we have no choice but to act decisively to end homelessness now.
These are the times when leaders with vision are needed. Compassion would be a nice add to the mix, but courage and vision are essential. Anyone at City Hall care to step forward?
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net ) ◘