[dropcap size=big]"W[/dropcap]e're about to enter into a new wave of living here in Los Angeles."
These words echoed throughout TVs in the city during Thursday’s press conference where Mayor Garcetti announced the “safer at home” order –essentially a “shelter in place” decree for millions of Angelenos that is expected to last until April 19, 2020, at the earliest.
However, at no time during the address did they mention what the 58,000 unhoused folks would do during this time.
In the last week, the city has rolled out hundreds of handwashing and hygiene stations, they’re also taking steps to house people in vacant motels, RVs and other structures but with nearly 60,000 people experiencing homelessness across the county on any given night, is that enough?
On Wednesday, Mayor Garcetti announced that the city would be converting up to 42 recreation centers that are currently closed, into emergency homeless shelters, hopefully creating over 6,000 beds, amidst concerns over the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are taking immediate, urgent action to slow the spread of COVID-19 by helping people who are experiencing homelessness come indoors,” Mayor Garcetti said in a statement on Wednesday. Councilmember Mike Bonin applauded the Mayor’s decisions saying in a statement, “This is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do. Using city facilities like recreation centers to get our most vulnerable neighbors off the streets rapidly will help slow the spread of the virus”
The Mayor’s announcement contradicted what Heidi Marston, the interim director of the Los Angeles Homeless Authority, told the city council on Tuesday. City Councilmembers grilled Marston about what the unhoused would do in the event of a city or statewide “lockdown.” Marston responded by saying that homeless people could shelter in place inside their tents if they wanted to.
During themarathon session that lasted over seven hours, the city council also supported a motion that temporarily modified aspects of LAMC 56.11, the ordinance that bans homeless people from leaving their tents up during the day and prohibits people from storing more than 60 gallons of property on the public right of way. Tents will be allowed to stay up during the day but LASAN will continue to seize property over 60 gallons.
Despite the countywide order, sanitation sweeps are apparently still scheduled to continue. There are over 50 CARE/CARE+ sanitation sweeps according to records obtained byMichaelKohlhass.org.
Advocates have called for the city to end rapid response cleans during the coronavirus emergency declaration and only do spot cleans and trash pickups but city officials have largely refused to make such modifications. For unhoused people, sanitation sweeps lead to displacement and push them further away from services. And at a time when people are supposed to be sheltering in place and practicing social distancing, sanitation sweeps only disrupt a person’s ability to help contain the coronavirus.
At this time, there have been no cases of coronavirus detected in the unhoused population of L.A. County, despite their vulnerability to illness.
“You have to remember the city has always in some respect isolated unhoused people. When you displace people you isolate them socially, that’s social distancing before it became a buzz word,” Theo Henderson, a podcaster and unhoused resident of Chinatown told L.A. Taco over the phone. “They’re cut off with contact because people don’t really socialize with unhoused people.”
In this week’s episode of Henderson’s podcast, We the Unhoused, he focuses on the coronavirus as it relates to people experiencing homelessness. “They’re not even aware it, they just know something is going on.”
With libraries, restaurants and other places where unhoused people usually go to charge phones and access information, unhoused people are even more in the dark then they usually are. “What makes it difficult is the city is sweeping them and they just think it’s the new normal. They’re adding handwashing stations but there’s no literature being spread.”
“Coronavirus is not from the unhoused community, we don’t have passports. We don’t go from residing at a chalet in Switzerland and then come back and reside in a tent on Skid Row.”
As an unhoused resident, Henderson feels he’s better off on the streets where it’s easier to practice social distancing. “Instead of those rec centers, we should have [the unhoused] in their own facilities like a trailer or motel. Basically we should allow the unhoused people to have a shelter in place kind of situation themselves.”
Homeless shelters generally have a bad reputation amongst the unhoused. They’re oftentimes nothing more than a FEMA tent with beds lined up in single file rows and they generally don’t offer storage.
In a new report from The Guardian, Sam Levin shines some light on the horrendous conditions at shelters across southern California. Circumstances range from soapless bathrooms to no hot water to blood-splattered walls. Henderson calls them a “petri dish for coronavirus,” and other illnesses like a staph infection. “Nobody wants to be forced into a place where they’ve had bad experiences. I think right now because of the historical nature of the city’s obsession with criminalizing unhoused people, it makes it very difficult for unhoused people to trust them.”
UPDATE: L.A. Taco has confirmed with Mayor Garcetti’s office all of the recreation centers that will be converted into emergency shelters by March 22, 2020, providing an estimated 6,547 beds.
North Hollywood Recreation Center - 11430 Chandler Blvd Los Angeles 91601
Central Recreation Center - 1357 E. 22nd St., Los Angeles 90011
109 Recreation Center - 1464 East 109th St. Los Angeles 90059
Echo park Community Center - 303 Patton St., Los Angeles 90026
Granada Hills Recreation Center - 16730 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills, 91344
Yosemite Recreation Center - 1840 Yosemite Dr., Los Angeles 90041
Woodland Hills Recreation Center 5858 Shoup Ave., Los Angeles 91367
Pan Pacific Recreation Center 7600 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles 90036
Westwood Recreation Center 1350 S Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles
Westchester Recreation Center - 700 W. Manchester Ave. Los Angeles 90045
Hollywood Recreation Center 1122 Cole Ave., Los Angeles 90038
Cheviot Hills Recreation Center - 2551 Motor Ave., Los Angeles 90064
Northridge Recreation Center - 18300 Lemarsh St, Northridge, CA 91324
Alpine Recreation Center - 817 Yale St., Los Angeles 90012
Balboa Recreation Center - 17015 Burbank Blvd., Los Angeles 91316
Baldwin Hills Recreation Center - 5401 Highlight Pl., Los Angeles 90016
Barry White South Park Recreation Center - 345 E. 51st., Los Angeles 90011
Bellevue Recreation Center - 826 Lucile Ave., Los Angeles 90026
Brandford Recreation Center - 13306 Brandford St., Los Angeles 91331
Delano Recreation Center - 15100 Erwin St., Los Angeles 91411
Denker Recreation Center - 1550 W. 35th Pl., Los Angeles 90018
Downey Recreation Center - 1772 N. Spring St., Los Angeles 90031
East Wilmington Greenbelt 522 Sanford St. Los Angeles 90744
Echo Park Recreation Center - 1632 Bellevue Ave., Los Angeles 90026
Fred Roberts Recreation Center - 4700 Honduras St., Los Angeles 90011
Green Meadows Recreation Center - 431 E. 89th St., Los Angeles 90003
Jim Gilliam Recreation Center - 4000 La Brea Ave., Los Angeles 90008
Imperial Courts Recreation Center 2250 E 114th St., Los Angeles 90059
Lafayette Recreation Center 625 S. Lafayette park pl., Los Angeles 90057
Lakeview Terrace Recreation Center 11075 Foothill Blvd., Los Angeles 91342
Mason park Recreation Center - 10500 mason Ave., Los Angeles 91311
Oakwood Recreation Center - 767 California Ave., Los Angeles 90291
Palisades Recreation Center - 851 Alma Real Dr. Los Angeles 90272
Pecan Recreation Center 145 S. Pecan St., Los Angeles 90033
Poinsetta Recreation Center 7341 Willoughby Ave., Los Angeles 90046
Queen Anne Recreation Center 1501 E. 41 St. Los Angeles 90047
Ross Snyder Recreation Center - 1501 E. 41 st., Los Angeles 90011
Sepulveda Recreation Center - 8825 Kester Ave., Los Angeles 91402
Sepulveda Recreation Center 8825 Kester Ave., Los Angeles 90020
Shatto Recreation Center 3191 W. 4th St. Los Angeles 90020
Slauson Multipurpose Center 5306 S. Compton Ave., Los Angeles 90011
Sun Valley Park & Recreation Center - 8133 Vineland Ave., Los Angeles 91352
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