A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit involving homelessness and the advent of COVID-19 on Skid Row ordered the city and county of Los Angeles to establish a timeline by late Wednesday afternoon for the installation of 50 additional toilets and 50 sanitation stations in th downtown area.
In his order, U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote that the court has received information indicating the lack of sufficient sanitary facilities to meet the basic needs of the homeless community in the area generally referred to as Skid Row.
Carter said he has personally observed conditions in the area, which recently reported its first coronavirus case when an employee of the Union Rescue Mission tested positive.
"There are very few sanitation facilities available, and it appears that no new toilets or sanitation stations have been installed in this area since the advent of the COVID-19 health crisis,'' the judge wrote in the order filed in Los Angeles federal court.
"If left unchecked, it is likely that the coronavirus will both devastate the vulnerable homeless population and exacerbate the existing public health crisis more generally,'' Carter wrote. "Therefore, the court hereby orders a status report by defendants City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles to address the timeline for the installation of 50 additional toilets and 50 additional sanitation stations in the Skid Row area.''
The judge said a Special Master working for the court indicated that a private company has reserved the needed toilets and sanitation stations, along with a commitment for their installation. All of the toilets and sanitation stations can be installed by the company by April 8, including 50 toilets and 25 sanitation stations installed by Friday, according to the judge.
"However, the parties are invited to acquire and install from whatever source they deem appropriate the needed units within the timeline,'' Carter wrote, ordering defendants to file the timeline by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The lawsuit was brought by the LA Alliance, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless and disabled city dwellers, against Los Angeles city and county for allegedly not doing enough to find solutions to the problem of thousands of people living in tents, cars and on the streets throughout the downtown area.