Photo Credit: Ramsey Isler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A longtime Los Angeles homeless encampment in Echo Park was shut down recently.
When protesters showed up to stop it, they were met by police in riot gear. The LAPD declared an unlawful assembly Wednesday night. On Thursday, 182 protesters were detained. In the end, the encampment was fenced off and cleaned up.
What is Echo Park
It is centered around Echo Park Lake. If you have never been there, you should check it out. The park around the lake is truly beautiful. Unfortunately, until recently, it also included a huge homeless encampment.
What is the Problem
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell played a big part in the shutdown. According to his office, the shutdown had nothing to do with ill-will towards these specific homeless people. They claim that it was done to repair more than $500,000 in damage to lighting and plumbing. They also claim to be removing hazardous material and making public safety improvements.
The problem is that to do all that, the homeless encampment needed to be moved. Many of the homeless didn’t want to leave, and frankly, I can’t blame them.
Homelessness is not an ideal situation at all, but if you have to be homeless, I can understand why you would prefer the beautiful Echo Park.
What the Protesters Say
Protesters framed the struggle as fighting for homeless people’s right to exist. Many pointed out that, as far as homeless encampments go, this one was safe and clean.
Bill Przylucki is the executive director of the progressive group Ground Game LA. made an interesting point.
“I’m not sure how many privileged residents on Nextdoor badly want to reclaim an alley in South L.A. Caving to that pressure is part of how we got to the response we saw.”
There are many homeless encampments in Los Angeles. Why Echo Park? Why not Hyde Park? Why not somewhere else?
What City Officials Say
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is very clear about his opinion on this issue. He wants everyone to frame this as a great success.
“The largest housing transition of an encampment ever in the city’s history.” Nobody dreamed that we’d be able to house more than 200 people when they started.”-Mayor Garcetti
He also suggested that situations like this could be replicated.
It is worth noting that many of the homeless from Echo Park went to the hotel rooms offered. However, many were not interested.
Homelessness is an extremely complicated problem. Sadly it is also a problem that won’t be solved any time soon.
I definitely understand the frustrations on both sides. The homeless encampment was an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful park. There was also a lot of hazardous waste that comes along with any homeless encampment.
On the other side, a lot of people like living there. It was not an ideal living situation by any stretch of the imagination, but better than some. There is also something dehumanizing about being forced to leave the place you call home.
Overall, housing a couple of hundred homeless people in hotels seems like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it. Many people left Echo Park to stay in a hotel voluntarily. But enough is enough.
Homelessness is not a new problem in Los Angeles. The homeless population has been growing, not shrinking, for years. Politicians know it is a problem. As recently as June, Mayor Garcetti called homelessness “the humanitarian crisis of our time.”
He has been Mayor since 2013. I think it is about time he comes up with some real, long-term solutions.
Note: A youtube channel named German in Venice made a couple of interesting videos about this situation. One of them can be found here.