A federal judge whose focus on the lack of working sanitation facilities on Skid Row resulted in the quick installation of dozens of new toilets and sinks in response to the coronavirus threat turned his attention Tuesday to the scarcity of safe parking for the homeless living downtown in campers.
U.S. District Judge David Carter had asked attorneys for the city of Los Angeles and county — participants in a lawsuit involving homelessness on Skid Row and the spread of COVID-19 — to come up with safe areas for recreational vehicle parking in the blighted 50-block area and present possible options at Tuesday’s hearing.
Potential parking sites include a state-owned site at 16th and Maple, which was apparently earmarked for shelters, although those plans could change. Also, a lot on San Julian Street was discussed in connection with a troublesome encampment parked along the 10 Freeway nearby.
“The city is aware of the recreational vehicles parked there, as there have been a number of recent fires and other issues associated with that particular RV encampment area,” according to City Attorney Mike Feuer.
A filing by the Orange County Catholic Worker, which joined the suit as a court-approved intervenor, stated that more than 16,500 people — about 28% of the unhoused community in the city and county — live in vehicles.
Although there is no restriction on living in a camper within the city of Los Angeles, there is a limitation on overnight parking on certain streets between 2 and 5 a.m. and a prohibition on RVs on some roads, the OCCW noted.
“There are viable locations for immediate operation of additional safe parking sites near Skid Row, as well as other areas of the city and county,” homeless rights attorney Carol Sobel wrote to Carter in advance of the hearing. “The court should direct that entry into a safe parking site during the COVID-19 crisis not be restricted (only) to individuals who qualify for … placement programs.”
Late last week, attorneys for the city and county told the judge that sanitation facilities would be serviced and maintained daily on Skid Row. The agreement came days after the judge observed some outdoor sinks in the blighted area were lacking soap and water.
According to the city, vendors of portable sanitation facilities will service 56 hand-washing stations and 54 portable toilets each day in the Skid Row area, which is in danger of experiencing a deadly outbreak of COVID-19.
The city has also distributed more than 5,000 reusable and washable cloth masks to persons experiencing homelessness in Skid Row through city-funded programs, according to Feuer.
In a report to the court filed late Monday, Feuer saidthe city is creating a high-capacity pop-up clinic with rapid results COVID-19 testing in Skid Row. Teams will also be deployed to carry testing equipment into the field to perform proactive testing for any symptomatic people at the city’s homeless encampments, he said.
An estimated 5,000 homeless people currently live in the Skid Row community downtown. The city and county have opened new shelters in recreation centers, deployed hand-washing stations and portable toilets at encampments and brought about 760 hotels and motel rooms and 500 trailers online to deal with the problem.
The lawsuit was brought in Los Angeles federal court by the L.A. Alliance, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless and disabled city dwellers, against the city and county for allegedly not doing enough to find solutions to the problem of thousands of people living in tents, cars and on the streets throughout the downtown area, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
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