The City Council voted Wednesday to resume cleanups by CARE Plus teams around A Bridge Home site zones, where homeless people are temporarily housed, after the cleanups were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, the regular CARE teams have continued to do spot cleanups, but the council temporarily suspended cleanups of large bulky items at homeless encampments and shelters, which are handled by CARE Plus teams.
That was done so homeless people could socially distance without fear of losing their belongings or becoming infected with the virus.
The council voted 10-4 to resume the cleanups, with members Mike Bonin, David Ryu, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Herb Wesson voting against it.
A motion was made to wait for the state to achieve its third phase of reopening during the pandemic and have a report come back to the council for consideration before resuming the cleanups, but it failed five votes to nine.
California is currently in phase two.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who originally proposed resuming the cleanups in early July, said the city cannot wait until the state moves into phase three of its COVID-19 response, as it has a duty to keep the streets clean.
“Since the pandemic started, we have seen the growth and expansion of homeless encampments,” Buscaino said. “This is not an acceptable way for people to live. While we work toward the end goal of bringing everyone indoors, it is important that we maintain basic public health standards on our sidewalks.”
Buscaino said resuming the cleanups is important because the CARE Plus teams also use sidewalk disinfectants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“All I’m asking is to simply clean up our streets. Why is that not acceptable? These are not sweeps. It’s irresponsible to say these are sweeps,” Buscaino said.
Several people called in to the Council Chamber during the meeting to voice their frustration with the cleanups, as many people living in Echo Park Lake and other homeless encampments clashed frequently with park rangers and cleanup officials earlier this year.
Some critics of the cleanups, which they refer to as “sweeps” due to some law enforcement presence, said they’ve seen homeless people stripped of their belongings when the CARE Plus teams come through and that they have disrupted an already dire circumstance.
Councilman Mike Bonin said the CARE Plus teams have not made it easy for homeless people and suggested the city find ways to make cleanups a less of a confrontational experience for the residents and workers.
“The CARE and CARE Plus teams are not what they were supposed to be. They were unveiled with a splashy press conference … as going to be a police- free approach to cleanups, and that has not happened,” Bonin said. “The cooperative approach toward cleaning up has not, to my perspective, has not gone sufficiently well.”
Staff members with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation said with the vote, their employees and volunteer teams can resume posting 72-hour notices for people to move their belongings and resume cleanups around the A Bridge Home facilities.
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