A group of homeless people is asking Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell to find a way to let them stay at Echo Park Lake overnight as long as they promise to keep the park clean and not be a nuisance to visitors.
A letter sent to the councilman late Thursday says: “We did not end up unhoused by choice, nor do we desire to stay on the streets forever. At this point, there is no viable option for shelter within or near (Council District) 13 for all of us. Many of us have tried to enter the shelter system elsewhere and do not feel safe or comfortable returning to those places.”
The letter said many in the group, which numbers several dozen, have federal housing vouchers and have had to wait for housing for two or three years. “But what we need and what we desire is to create a solution within this city council district, our home.”
During a cleanup Friday morning in the area where people without permanent shelter have taken up residency, members of the group confronted park rangers and crew members, with members of advocacy groups on hand for support.
On Tuesday, O’Farrell introduced a motion that would dedicate more than $560,000 to fund six months of “emergency measures” regarding hygiene needs of the homeless at Echo Park Lake, which is located in his council district.
“All city parks must be kept clean, safe and accessible for people of all ages and income levels,” O’Farrell said. “People who are experiencing homelessness at Echo Park Lake will continue to be offered services while we work on securing temporary indoor shelter and ultimately, permanent housing.”
O’Farrell followed up with another motion Friday that seeks to expand the hours for use of the Echo Park Lake restrooms on the northwest corner of the park for 24-hour access for six months in order to address “urgent hygiene and public health needs.”
“The immediate needs of unhoused Angelenos are felt acutely citywide, and recently this is particularly true for Echo Park Lake,” O’Farrell said in his motion. “While services and resources are in various stages of production, we need to address those needs most critical/or basic quality of life for both the unhoused and the individuals and families who use the park as a daily resource for exercise, recreation and relaxation.”
Video footage posted on social media sites Friday showed homeless people angry at cleanup crews as they began to do work on the park.
The Recreation and Parks Department is the lead on cleanups, but officials could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the activity at Echo Park Lake.
The park was one of the locations where the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count took place Thursday night.
The count, which has been taking place this week across the county, is required to be conducted by Continuum of Care providers to receive federal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, O’Farrell’s Council District 13, which includes Echo Park, portions of Hollywood and Silver Lake, had more than 2,400 unsheltered homeless people in 2019.