Despite promises of making thousands of shelter beds, hotel and motel rooms available so Los Angeles’ homeless can come off the streets during the coronavirus crisis, NBC4’s I-Team found most beds across the city are full or unavailable.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of the Valley, said. “There’s nothing worse than when you’re at capacity and you know you just can’t take on more person.”
The housing rush comes as the coronavirus is beginning to hit LA’s homeless community, a population that could see the disease spread like wildfire.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised about 8,000 hotel and motel beds will be freed up to house the homeless, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised 13 new temporary shelters.
Hope of the Valley is just one of LA’s organizations opening its doors to the homeless, but its five shelters are now overcapacity and turning people away.
Hope of the Valley is not alone.
The I-Team spoke to ten of LA’s parks and recreation centers that have been turned into temporary shelters, with most reporting that they are at full capacity. Thousands of hotel and motel rooms for at-risk homeless promised by the state are not yet available, the timing of when their doors will open remains unclear.
In the meantime, shelters like Skid Row’s Union Rescue Mission, already housing about 200 more people than its usual capacity, are providing resources including beds and meals to the homeless community lining up outside its doors.
Feather Shehyn, one of LA’s homeless residents who managed to get a bed at Hope of the Valley's emergency shelter in Pacoima, said that she is grateful. She has spent the last six months sleeping at night on city buses.
“I’d rather be in something like this than to be on the bus,” she said. “You don’t know what these people can be carrying.”
Skid Row continues to be a dangerously crowded area, and despite many homeless now wearing masks and taking precautions, the threat of the virus spreading has motivated many to try to find a bed in one of LA’s shelters.
“I know they’re [extra shelter beds] coming online, but they need to come online immediately,” said Reverend Andy Bales. “It’s a FEMA-like disaster. Bring in every resource you have.”
The I-Team learned that due to the lack of beds to accommodate LA’s large homeless community, starting next week, city workers will paint lines every twelve feet on Skid Row sidewalks to encourage the homeless to pitch their tents far apart in accordance with social distancing recommendations.