A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit involving homelessness and the advent of COVID-19 on Skid Row ordered the city and county of Los Angeles to establish a timeline by late Wednesday afternoon for the installation of 50 additional toilets and 50 sanitation stations in the downtown area.
In his order, U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote that the court had received information indicating the lack of sufficient sanitary facilities to meet the basic needs of the homeless community in the area generally referred to as Skid Row.
Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer responded that the city will begin deploying — through a vendor — 50 additional portable toilets and 60 additional hand-washing stations in the Skid Row community beginning Thursday. He said he expects the job to be completed by the end of the week.
In their written response, attorneys for the county stated that 100 hand-washing stations have already been placed in certain areas outside the city of Los Angeles.
“The county also does not want to unnecessarily duplicate efforts,” according to the status report. “As a result, the county will defer to the city of Los Angeles’ status update on this issue at this time, until otherwise ordered by this court.”
Carter said he had personally observed conditions in the area, which recently reported its first coronavirus case when an employee of the Union Rescue Mission tested positive.
“There are very few sanitation facilities available, and it appears that no new toilets or sanitation stations have been installed in this area since the advent of the COVID-19 health crisis,” the judge wrote in the order filed in Los Angeles federal court.
“If left unchecked, it is likely that the coronavirus will both devastate the vulnerable homeless population and exacerbate the existing public health crisis more generally,” Carter wrote. “Therefore, the court hereby orders a status report by defendants City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles to address the timeline for the installation of 50 additional toilets and 50 additional sanitation stations in the Skid Row area.”
Carter ordered defendants to file their timeline by 4 p.m. Wednesday, which was accomplished.
The lawsuit was brought by the L.A. Alliance, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless and disabled city dwellers, against Los Angeles 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.
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