Homeless Dwellings Removed from Arroyo Seco Channel

By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer

Struggling to push the bicycle loaded with his belongings along the bumpy path carved out of the brush next to the Arroyo Seco channel in Highland Park last week, a homeless man grumbled he was being forced to leave the encampment that was his home.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do! I don’t know where I’m going to go,” he said as he pushed his bike through a hole cut in the wire-mesh fencing next to the Avenue 57 exit on the Arroyo Seco Parkway-110 Pasadena Freeway.

Lea este artículo en Español: Indigentes Son Removidos del Canal de Arroyo Seco

He was one of more than two-dozen homeless people removed from illegal encampments located between Avenues 52 and 57; invisible to many of the drivers on the freeway.

But to residents living nearby, the network of knotted tarps, tents, clothes hanging from the bushes and fencing and growing piles of trash are not only an eyesore, they’re a public safety issue.

They demanded that the city clean up the area and move the homeless out.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

In response, on May 25, as required by law, the city posted signs notifying encampment dwellers that they had three days to leave and remove their belongings before the city starts clearing the area on May 28.

The city’s departments of public works, parks and recreation, officers from the Hollenbeck and Northeast police divisions and the of Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD1), coordinated the cleanup.

County mental health workers and employees with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) were also called in to assist anyone wanting help: there were no takers.

“CD1 takes these complaints seriously,” Cedillo told EGP in an email. “The intent was not only to ensure the safety and livability for the surrounding community, but to also offer homeless services to the individuals living in the encampments and to get them connected with valuable social services,” he said.

About 30 people were living in the 17 encampments along the Arroyo, according to public works spokesman Jimmy Tokeshi. He said it took a day and a half to clear the 18 tons of trash and debris removed from the third-of-a-mile stretch along the freeway.

How to best deal with Los Angeles’ homeless population has sparked increased debate in recent months, from calls for more police enforcement to building more affordable housing.

Residents watching the cleanup such as Wendy Riser, said they’ve heard that some of the homeless in those encampments at some point were residents of Highland Park, but ended up on the streets because of different situations such as loosing their jobs, increase of rent, mental illness or drugs.

Several homeless in Northeast L.A. neighborhoods like Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Eagle Rock and Cypress Park have ties to the community, including family and friends who live nearby.

That was the case last week when a young woman, seeing the clearing underway, ran to the encampment in search of her mother who she told police had been living there with a boyfriend.

She wanted to know if her mother was ok, explained LAPD Officer Oscar Cassini. It’s not uncommon for relatives to know that a loved one is living at one of the homeless encampments, to keep track of them there, he said.

Some people might find that shocking, but there are lots of reasons why someone can’t take in the homeless person, Cassini said, referring to cases of mental illness or heavy drug use.

The number of people in Los Angeles living in “tents, makeshift shelters, and vehicles increased by 85% from 2013” when the number was 5,335,to 9,535 today, according to the recently released results of LAHSA’s 2015 Homeless Countdown.

Skyrocketing housing costs are a big part of the problem, claim affordable housing advocates.

According to LAHSA’s report, California’s lowest-income households spend about two-thirds of their income on housing.

The 2014 USC Casden Forecast reported that as of December 2014, the average monthly rent in the Los Angeles region was $1,716, making L.A. one of the top 10 most expensive places to rent in the U.S.

Outreach staff sent to last week’s encampment clearing spoke with 18 men and 7 women but were unable to get them to accept services, LAHSA Spokesperson Eileen Bryson told EGP by email. “Most of the encamped homeless dwellers were preoccupied with managing their personal items during the clean up,” she said.

According to Officer Cassini, many refuse offers to be placed in a shelter because they don’t like to “follow the rules.”

“Some of them do drugs and in the shelters you can’t do that,” he said, moments after taking one of the homeless men into custody on an outstanding warrant.

Bryson said crews removed a large number of illegal and dangerous items such as 117 hypodermic needles, 50 aerosol cans and 17 propane tanks.

Animal Control Services remove three chickens and a cat, she said.

Caltrans had to disconnect power lines illegally connected to light poles along the 110 Freeway, providing electricity to 6 of the encampments, Bryson said.

A passerby walking his dog found the removal activity troubling. Moving the homeless will not solve the problem, it’s “just a band aid,” said Christopher. There must be a better solution.

Cleanup of other encampments between Via Marisol and Bridewell Street along the Arroyo Seco channel started this week should be finished today, according to Tokeshi.

Crews will remove “trash and bulky items, and when appropriate store property found in the cleanup area within the framework of the court decisions aimed at protecting individual rights,” he said.

The 2015 Homeless Count report from LAHSA found that there are 25,686 people in the City of Los Angeles with no homes. In CD1 there are nearly 2,000.

Twitter @jackieguzman
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June 4, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


2 Responses to “Homeless Dwellings Removed from Arroyo Seco Channel”

  1. KarmaDreams on June 5th, 2015 8:27 pm

    I can’t express my elation enough, or say how extremely GLAD I am to see these eyesores being taken down! I can’t understand HOW anyone thought that it was ok to allow these encampments to stay up for even one day! I have been complaining to the neighborhood council, Gil Cedillo’s office, the mayor’s office (as well as his Facebook page) about the unsanitary conditions that these “villages” have brought with them. It seems that people are more concerned with having parking spaces removed to add useless “parklettes” in our town, removing car lanes to add bike paths, and setting up “Friends of Homeless Highland Park Redisdents” Committees to even consider that the majority of homeless people either have mental illness or drug problems, NEITHER OF WHICH SHOULD BE OVERLOOKED when deciding to allow homeless villages to pop up in a residential area. Homelessness is not something that will necessarily be eradicated in our lifetimes, and as long as people have drug and mental issues, will probably be here longer than even our children will be alive, but if they choose to be homeless, then don’t set up camp in residential areas (NELA is already dirty enough as it is without adding more to the problem)!

  2. CitizenX on June 8th, 2015 3:43 pm

    I love how not one publication sights the REAL reasons for homelessness city wide. The 9th district court ruling allowing it. It really is that simple. A rich attorney in Santa Monica on behalf of the ACLU and a guy who was pissing and shitting in front of a business in DTNLA; he got his hobo trash taken away and Carol Sobel swoops in to make a buck and postulate compassion from her 2 million dollar house in Santa Monica.
    Couple that with a blindly liberal Garcetti who won’t challenge the ruling and the passage of prop 47 you have parts of the city that NOW look like Calcutta.

    A child lets her mom live by the river? Many of the “residents” have local ties? What does it say about their family structure that they would allow them to live out there? 117 Needles? How many times were they used or shared? All of this a mere hundred feet from a grade school.
    Spare me the compassion for the vagrants, what about those poor kids having to see that filth everyday or accidentally stepping on a needle that carries a plethora of diseases or infections.
    This problem coincidentally started after the 9th district court ruling I have lived here for 6 years and it never was like that before the ruling.

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