Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino on Tuesday, Oct. 27, urged the city to resume comprehensive cleanup schedules for homeless encampments citywide and ask support for an ordinance that would ban homeless camps up to 500 feet of shelters.
The cleanings were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were resumed — but only in A Bridge Home shelter zones — in July.
The motion before the council on Tuesday would bring the cleanings back throughout the city.
They have been criticized by homeless activists who say they displace people from their tent homes and makeshift shelters. They cite public health guidelines that advise against dispersing homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cleanups are viewed by critics as government sweeps that further displace and victimize the homeless.
Buscaino’s San Pedro district has been frequently using the cleanups.
In an Oct. 13 City Council report, Enrique Zaldivar, director and general manager of L.A. Sanitation and Environment, stated there have been 71 comprehensive cleanups since they were resumed on July 31. He reported that 276 tons of material has been removed including nearly 3 tons of hazardous and bio-waste.
The cleanups also have provided nearly 900 mobile showers and distributed more than 2,100 sanitary kits. More than 266 tents also have been distributed.
“In the interest of public health, many areas of the city that have gone without comprehensive CARE+ cleanings need immediate sanitary services,” Zaldivar wrote in the Oct. 9 report.
Challenges remain, however, in providing storage sites for personal property and in meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for sidewalk access.
“Additional funding will ultimately be required for the storage of property that does not allow for ADA egress/ingress compliance personal property, as this requirement was not contemplated in the existing budget process,” the report says.
More overtime funding also will be needed, he said, in order to conduct comprehensive cleanings.
The recommendation is to identify a “limited number of locations” outside of the A Bridge Home sites throughout the city to resume the comprehensive cleanings.
“Health risks associated with poor sanitary conditions include a multitude of illnesses and diseases,” the report also stated.
Buscaino also is urging that no encampments — “sitting, sleeping or lying” — be permitted within up to 500 feet of shelters and of designated freeway overpass, underpass, ramp, tunnel or pedestrian subway areas where “lodging unsheltered or in tents or makeshift shelters is unhealthful or incompatible” with the need to access the infrastructure.
As the city prepares to set up more shelters to answer the homeless crisis, Buscaino said, there needs to be a balance with extra cleaning and security services so that communities will be more open to having shelters.
Tents surrounding shelters also can present temptations to shelter residents who are tempted to revisit their former lifestyles.