Encampments in Los Angeles have highlighted the problem of homelessness in the region, but a federal mandate requires the city of LA clear underpasses.
Under the 134 Freeway on Vineland, the area and sidewalk used to be crowded with tents. The only thing left as of Tuesday was a hand-washing station. The station is in fact working, with plenty of soap and water. It may be an example of what’s changing in the city of Los Angeles.
“The encampments that arouse so much concern and fear for residents, that’s going to be gone,” said Rev. Stephanie Jaeger, a pastor at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in North Hollywood and executive director of NoHo Home Alliance. The program helps the homeless and celebrates a big milestone.
“This week, on one day, 30 of our guests were able to move off the street and into housing," she said.
Most of the 30 people came from a 101 Freeway underpass on Moorpark Street. It was once lined with tents. On Tuesday, it was nearly all cleared out.
“I’ve fallen on hard times, to be honest with you,” said one homeless man named Clemmie.
Clemmie said he’s been homeless most of his life but now is housed at a nearby hotel with a promise of at least 90 days to get his life back on track.
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“Sometimes it’s really hard to go and camp out on a bus bench, barely get to sleep at night dealing with the night life and trying to save money when people are stealing from you,” he said.
Christopher and his girlfriend were living under the 134 Freeway on Vineland, but now are finding themselves with a safe place to start anew.
“It’s not easy, it’s not easy. You want to get out but it’s easier said than done,” he said.
He said on a daily basis he’s looking for work online, using Indeed or Facebook -- any resource out there to get a job.
Luis Oliart plays the liaison for the NoHo Home Alliance, building relationships with those on the street, and working with neighborhood groups to find solutions.
“We bridge the gap between the streets and where social services meet,” he said.
“Any local neighborhood councils and churches, temples, whatever you can do to unify the community, you can get it done. Don’t underestimate the value of a unified movement in the community.”
Clemmie’s hoping for a place of his own, and a record deal. He shares his Hollywood dreams through his street gospel lyrics.
“I believe that we can be the change, if we can speak our pain, learn to smile without the sun, try laughing in the rain.”
It is possible some encampments may come back to the underpasses, but the judge in this case has given both the city and the county until Sept. 1 to come up with their relocation plan.