Packed In: Overcrowded housing in Los Angeles has brought death by design
It started with a homeless encampment in a Hollywood neighborhood.
Then a fire in a large warehouse near downtown Los Angeles that destroyed a homeless shelter.
And now a growing number of encampments have sprung up near freeways, in bus terminals, and on sidewalks at bus-only intersections.
These “homeless camps” — as some Los Angeles officials have called them — are proliferating at an exponential rate as a growing number of people with mental or substance-abuse problems find themselves on the streets each night.
By some estimates, there are more than 2,000 people camping out overnight in Los Angeles without access to a permanent place to reside. And despite government calls to tackle the problem, no city law or ordinance specifically addresses their problem.
“We have a really bad law and regulations that we’re making against people who are homeless,” said City Atty. Mike Feuer, referring to the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which was established more than 15 years ago.
“Not enough resources are put into it,” Feuer said.
Those regulations are written when municipal officials see encampments being built, often in areas that are already overcrowded.
An unincorporated area of Los Angeles, East Hollywood, offers a good example of how that can happen.
“It all began with the unincorporated area in East Hollywood,” said Mark Geller, director of the nonprofit Homeless Connect.
“That was a place, if you drove through on your way to Santa Monica and Venice Beach, it was kind of the red light district,” Geller told City Hall last Thursday.
Geller lives in Santa Monica and Venice, but has been homeless for two years. He said the homeless problem was particularly acute in East Hollywood because of its proximity to the University of Southern California.
“You had just about any kind of student you wanted coming out and living like rats in the streets,” Geller said.
He started a volunteer group called East Hollywood Homeless Outreach. He told City Council members he wanted to get people into temporary housing before the city would take action against them.
“It’s like a snowball,” Geller said. “The more people you recruit and the more of them who sign up, the more you’re going to have.”
Geller started calling for the city to address