By Jose Ivan Cazares
KOREATOWN — A coalition of community groups has convinced City Council President Herb Wesson to relocate a proposed temporary shelter for homeless people.
Chan Tong (Jake) Jeong, a spokesperson for the coalition, said Wesson had withdrawn a site on Vermont Avenue between Sixth Street and Wilshire Boulevard after protests from the Wilshire Community Coalition, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and other groups over the site.
Wesson’s office did not respond to requests for comments.
Jeong commended Wesson and City Hall for negotiating in response to the community’s concerns. He said the main concerns are a lack of communication and a lack of information on how money approved by Los Angeles County voters is being used.
The city of Los Angeles has committed to combating homelessness, which had drastically increased for three years until a slight dip was reported by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority from its most recent count in January.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had called for temporary shelters in every City Council district under a $20 million plan that was supposed to get 1,500 people off the streets before the end of the year.
“The question is how are you going to minimize the negative impacts for the neighboring areas,” Jeong said. “There is no clear plan. I asked about operating costs and nobody knows anything. I’m very concerned. We might end up wasting money while failing to really help homeless persons.”
Jeong pointed at the current construction of shelter in a parking lot of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument that he said was over budget as an example of the city’s lack of planning. More information on services that will help rehabilitate homeless people dealing with drug addiction or mental illness needs to be provided, according to Jeong. He also said he is concerned about how security at shelters is going to be handled and questioned whether police departments had officers to spare to police them.
Shayla Myers, an attorney representing the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said one concern advocates for the homeless have is the focus on temporary shelters over permanent affordable housing.
“Certainly, the construction of shelters plays a role addressing issues related to homelessness,” Myers said. “The concern with the construction of shelters is that it will be done instead of permanent housing. The homeless crisis in Los Angeles is the result of an affordable housing crisis.”
Myers also expressed concerns about an increase in the criminalization of homelessness. She said many homeless people are unable to access health services and other resources because of minor citations. Her organization provides free legal services for people of low resources, including several homeless people.
Myers said a general fear of authorities keeps many homeless people from resolving legal issues, depriving them of access to many services.
“The mayor’s office and the City Council have made it a priority to build shelters. Our concern is that construction of these shelters is always tied to simultaneously increasing enforcement and increasing criminalization,” Myers said.
According to Myers, the increase in shelter isn’t making more of an impact reducing the number of homeless in the city because people are becoming homeless at a staggering rate. She said people staying in the communities they lived in before becoming homeless are contributing to encampments spreading beyond Skid Row.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there are 58,000 people living in the streets, including more than 5,000 children.