A Los Angeles councilman proposed Tuesday that the city house about five dozen homeless people in trailers on a downtown lot as a possible model for citywide temporary shelters.
The proposal, outlined in a motion introduced by Councilman Jose Huizar, calls for installing five trailers on a city-owned parking lot at Arcadia and Alameda streets to house people who sleep on the sidewalks in the area around the historic El Pueblo site off of Main Street.
The motion says the shelters could be installed and operated for six months at a cost of $2 million. Huizar said the annual cost after that would be about $1.4 million to operate the site, and that more temporary shelters of a similar nature are in the works for other areas of the city.
“This is the first of its kind. We’re not necessarily calling it a pilot, because we’re hoping to work on others at the same time,” Huizar told City News Service.
The proposal comes from a task force formed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to brainstorm how to get thousands of unsheltered people off the streets. If approved by the City Council, the initiative to provide temporary shelter would mark a new strategy for the city, which has focused primarily on encouraging the construction of permanent housing through $1.2 billion in voter-approved bonds under Measure H, which was passed in 2016.
Garcetti has said he hopes temporary housing can be placed on other city properties throughout Los Angeles to help serve the estimated 25,000 unsheltered homeless people in the city.
“Permanent supportive housing is a model that works,” Huizar said. “It is a model that you get wraparound services, the individuals there you can send them different places — they don’t get lost. But as we did that and came up with it as a long-term solution, we need some more immediate things, and this is what we are able to come up with.”
The El Pueblo site would consist of three trailers for beds, one trailer to house administrative workers and case management services, and one hygiene trailer with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Huizar said the hope is that the people who stay there could be transitioned into permanent housing within six months.
Huizar also said the passage of Measure H, and the countywide Measure HHH that aims to raise $355 million per year for homeless services through a sales tax increase, was an indication that L.A. voters want their leaders to take aggressive action on homelessness.
“If there was a poll put on this, I think the support would be overwhelming,” Huizar said. “The public has been asking for our government officials to treat homelessness as the crisis that it is, and that’s why Measure H passed, that’s why Measure HHH passed. And what I hear, as well, which is reality, is that we’ve got to do something more immediate.”
Some recent city efforts to combat homelessness have been met with opposition, including a proposal to put up storage units in Venice for homeless people to use that was met with a lawsuit in 2016 by a group of local homeowners. Huizar said similar opposition to the El Publo plan is likely.
“We anticipate that there will be some NIMBY (not in my backyard) pushback,” Huizar said. “We don’t know in what form it will come, but we’re hoping that the neighborhood will realize that the homeless individuals in their neighborhoods are their neighbors, their friends, could be family members … ”
Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles jumped by 20 percent in 2017 while the county saw a spike of 23 percent, according to the results of the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. In the city, the total number of homeless went up to 34,189 and the county number increased to 57,794.
—City News Service
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