<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Southern California News - [LA FEATURE] Streets of Shame]]>Copyright 2019http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/localen-usMon, 22 Jul 2019 12:09:27 -0700Mon, 22 Jul 2019 12:09:27 -0700NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[School on Wheels Helps Homeless Students]]>Fri, 19 Jul 2019 19:31:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/School_on_Wheels_Helps_Homeless_Children.jpg

In the heart of Skid Row School on Wheels helps homeless children by supplying them with school supplies in addition to one on one tutoring provided by hundreds of volunteers. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 19, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Family Believes Fire That Destroyed Home Started in Homeless Encampment]]>Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:38:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/south-la-fire-hoemless-2019.PNG

A family believes a fire that ripped through a South Los Angeles home around 5 a.m. Thursday started in a growing homeless encampment in the alley, and now the father is left without his construction gear for his job after it was all destroyed in the blaze.

Now the family who lived in the home near Woodlawn and King Boulevard is also homeless.

Residents said they've complained numerous times to city officials about the growing homeless encampment, but they got no response.

"I lost every pair of shoes. I have nothing anymore," Dayana Perez, 14, said.

Family members said they saw a homeless man running from the scene. The family says they warned city officials this could happen.

"We've called the city a lot of times to help us move the homeless they didn't listen to us. We told them there's a chance of a fire. They still didn't listen or do anything," Perez said.

As crews restored utilities to neighboring homes Friday, a homeless woman was spotted washing her clothes in the alley and hanging them to dry on a fence.

Neighbors say they've repeatedly called the city's 311 hotline to complain about the growing encampment but got no response.

"This is the second fire. I had to put one out before because he was trying to barbecue to keep warm in February. The fire was multi-colored. This one -- I don't know what he was burning," Donnell Jackson, a neighbor, said.

Dayana's parents, who speak only Spanish, are now sleeping in their car on the property. After losing all of their father's gear for his construction job, the three children are staying with their grandmother.

Dayana says she believes their complaints were ignored because they're a low-income family, and now they've lost the few belongings they had.

"There are a lot of memories. I didn't buy them, but my mom did and it hurts more because they worked hard for it. Now it's gone," Dayana said.

Los Angeles fire officials are labeling it a rubbish fire but haven't determined the exact cause.

NBCLA reached out to Councilmen Curren Price's office, who said they've sent representatives to the home. 

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said they're looking into why the complaints weren't followed up and will provide emergency assistance to the Perez family.

Garcetti's office also said it would will let the city's homeless outreach team know about the people living in the alley and if they can help.

If you wish to help the Perez family, members have set up a GoFundMe account here.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Sue City of LA Over Confiscated Property]]>Thu, 18 Jul 2019 20:26:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/los-angeles-homeless-property-july2019.PNG

A group of homeless people and advocates filed a federal lawsuit Thursday saying the city of Los Angeles' practice of removing the belongings of people living on the streets hampers their ability to improve their lives.

"Discarding people's belongings with arbitrary discretion and confusing rules harms their health and impairs their ability to work and find housing. The current practices and the law underlying them are unconstitutional,'' plaintiffs' attorney Catherine Sweetser said.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, said the office will review the lawsuit but had no further comment at the time.

The city of Los Angeles routinely conducts cleanups of areas that are frequented and occupied by homeless people. The cleanups are aimed at reducing trash and preventing the spread of disease. The city has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to clean up programs and outreach for homeless people that are expected to begin this fall.

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which is also representing the homeless plaintiffs, issued a statement saying that while the city has made some changes in the way it response to homeless encampments, "there has been no movement by the Los Angeles City Council to address the constitutionality of (its laws).''

One of the homeless plaintiffs said the city took her work materials while she was living on the streets.

"I work as a house cleaner and I have had my cleaning supplies taken from me multiple times,'' Janet Garcia said. "Every time I lose my belongings, I have to start over. How am I supposed to get back up on my feet when they keep making me go back to square one?''

The group contends there is no requirement for the city or police to give notice to homeless people before they determine which items are to be discarded.

"... The ordinance allows LAPD to arrest anyone who attempts to challenge LA Sanitation's decisions,'' according to the Legal Aid Foundation.

"As a result, in the fourth quarter of 2018, the city teams tasked with enforcement visited more than 2,000 encampments and threw away more than 435 tons of debris, but sent less than 160 bags of belongings to storage.''

In May, the city settled with another group that filed a federal lawsuit regarding property of homeless people in a designated area of Skid Row, paying the plaintiffs $645,000. The City Council voted 12-2 to settle the case, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Jose Huizar dissenting.

Property that is seized in the Skid Row area that is determined not to be contraband or criminal evidence is held for 90 days for people to recover.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[New City Water Fountains Concern Some Residents]]>Wed, 17 Jul 2019 19:29:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/New_City_Water_Fountains_Concern_Some_Residents.jpg

Twenty-one drinking fountains have been installed in Los Angeles near homeless encampments to provide water during the hottest part of the summer. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. Wednesday 17, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[City of LA Installs 21 Drinking Fountains for Homeless]]>Thu, 18 Jul 2019 08:08:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/203*120/venice-water-fountains-homeless-2019.PNG

The city of Los Angeles has installed 21 new drinking fountains near homeless encampments to provide just a little bit of relief in this summer heat, with some in areas like Skid Row. But one of those fountains is inside a Venice Beach neighborhood, and some homeowners think that's the wrong place for it.

A homeless man was seen cleaning razors in the new drinking fountain installed on 3rd Avenue near Rose in Venice Beach.

Residents also snapped photos showing a man in bathrobe who just washed in the fountain, and piles of trash surrounding it.

Resident Rick Swinger said he understands the need, but he thinks it's the wrong location for the fountain near homes just three blocks from the beach.

"What it does is creates a camping environment, makes it easy for everybody to come here. World travelers come here for free camps because we're by the beach," he said.

Lorenzo lives on the street with his two dogs. He said he's happy about the fountain, because he doesn't have to bother neighboring businesses for water.

"We don't have money to buy water. It helps a lot," he said.

Sal Haro, part of Venice Beach's street cleaning team, said 3rd Avenue's homeless encampment already attracts rats and fleas, and he sees plenty of discarded needles. He already cleaned up around the fountain once Wednesday and said by the time he returns in the afternoon, he'll have to clean it all again.

Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said the fountains are only one small part of an overall strategy to provide humanitarian relief to the city's growing homeless population.

"We don't believe services draw people to areas. There are already people living on the streets, and they need access to basic amenities," said Christina Miller, Deputy Mayor for City Homelessness Initiatives.

The mayor's office has also just put together a new public health task force that's working to address a wide range of issues facing the homeless.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[OC Supervisors Vote to Settle Homeless Suits]]>Tue, 16 Jul 2019 18:54:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/City_Council_Approves_141M_in_Homeless_Funding.jpg

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a settlement of two federal lawsuits stemming from attempts to clear the Santa Ana riverbed of a homeless encampment.

The agreement will allow the county to enforce nuisance laws on county property by creating two zones -- one in which transients can be arrested immediately and another that requires that law enforcement first do outreach and try to move the transients into shelters, Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said.

The restricted areas allowing for immediate arrest include John Wayne Airport, flood control channels and high-risk wilderness areas, Do said.

In other areas, officials will send social workers to engage with transients, but if they refuse services, they could be taken to jail, he said.

"If it seems obvious that a patient has a medical condition then they will be transported to a county clinic for assessment" before an appropriate shelter is determined, Do said.

A procedure built into the agreement will allow U.S. District Judge David O. Carter to resolve grievances, Do said.

The settlement also prevents the Orange County Sheriff's Department from enforcing anti-camping laws in its contract cities unless those cities have shown they have provided adequate shelter for their homeless population, Do said.

Last month, a dozen northern Orange County cities approved a settlement in the federal litigation, agreeing to build two shelters in Buena Park and Placentia.

Those two "navigation centers" will provide a variety of services to the homeless aimed at getting them into permanent housing.

Cities in south Orange County, however, are still embroiled in federal litigation. U.S. District Judge James Selna recently ruled that Carter had made some comments during the case that could be viewed as prejudicial, so the case was sent to a federal judge in Los Angeles County.

The Santa Ana-based homeless activist organization Orange County Catholic Worker sued in January of last year to stop a move to clear out hundreds of transients camped out on the riverbed near Angel Stadium.

"The settlement is in itself very simple, but the ramifications are profound on many levels," Do said.

"This nails down the shelter and wraparound service component of our system of care. You couple this with the Be Well OC program and the mental health structure and the housing trust components, and that completes our system of care."

The last remaining piece is mental health services in the jails, Do said.

"Truly, our county has a completely well-defined and built-out system of care, and hopefully through that system we won't have gaps and people won't fall through those gaps," Do said. "I'm excited. In the life of a normal case a year and a half is not really that long, but given the enormity of the issues involved and the problems we were trying to address in society this is huge. We are so much further ahead than any other county in the United States that I know of. I don't think any county our size or smaller has come nearly as far."

Attorney Brooke Weitzman, who represents some of the plaintiffs in the federal suit, said the settlement is "a great step" that will lead to "solutions" to the issues that led to the lawsuits.

The dispute resolution before Carter will be available for three years, Weitzman said.

That will give both sides time to iron out bugs in the process, she added.

"We certainly anticipate it will be a positive result for everyone," Weitzman said.

<![CDATA[Cancer Diagnosis Forces Homeless Man Into Recovery]]>Thu, 11 Jul 2019 20:01:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Cancer_Diagnosis_Forces_Homeless_Man_into_Recovery.jpg

After missing his rent, a man ends up homeless and is diagnosed with cancer. The one thing he asks for is for people to be more compassionate for the multitude of homeless that occupy the Los Angeles streets. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Balboa Park Residents Complain About Trash Piling Up]]>Tue, 09 Jul 2019 18:58:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/BalboaStreetsofShame.png

The views from the bike path at Lake Balboa Park aren't what those who live in the area expected. A person doesn't have to look very far to find those who call Lake Balboa streets home.

The bike path, which is filled with mounds of garbage, is not necessarily a homeless encampment, but the accumulating trash isn't a welcome sight for residents.

"I don't like it, and I think it can spread disease. It's all over the place back here," a Lake Balboa resident said.

A homeless man named Charlie has been on the streets for a long time. He has been to prison and has lost his mother, but even he agrees that the city lags when it comes to cleaning up the streets.

Charlie was talking about cleaning up the piles of trash that litter the landscape across the city.

At Lake Balboa Park, neighbors alerted Streets of Shame to a row of shopping carts that lined the street. A total of 32 shopping carts were counted and were piled high with filth. Even though most people have become familiar with seeing piled up belongings from homeless people, even Charlie said "These aren't belongings."

When contacting the city's 311 line, an operator said the Department of Sanitation has known about the mess for nearly two weeks. When reaching out to LA's Bureau of Sanitation, a representative claimed to be dealing with a backlog of calls for months. And still no certainty is given as to when the streets will be cleaned.

Some members in the community have lost hope and believe their calls to the city do not matter, even if the city does eventually decide to clean up the street.

"Within a very short time, it's all back again," a Balboa Resident said.

Photo Credit: Troy McLaurin]]>
<![CDATA[LA Police Chief Aims to Wipe Out Minor Warrants for Homeless]]>Fri, 12 Jul 2019 02:19:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LA-CHIEF-AP_19192088972538.jpg

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said he is working to eliminate thousands of homeless people's old warrants for minor offenses in the coming weeks as part of a solution to help get people off the streets.

"This is a humanitarian crisis of our generation," Moore said Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press. "This matches any other calamity that this city or this region or this country has seen. It is, I believe, a social emergency."

Homelessness rose 16% in LA over the past year , to more than 36,000 people, according to a June report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Across LA County, the count increased 12%, to nearly 59,000 people.

California's homeless crisis came under fire this month after President Donald Trump threatened to intervene and "get that whole thing cleaned up."

"They can't be looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco," Trump said in an interview with Fox News.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti responded that he would welcome federal involvement to solve the issue.

Since applying for the top job last year, Moore has been considering a plan to eliminate so-called bench warrants more than 5 years old for minor offenses such as drinking in public, blocking a sidewalk and failure to appear in court. Moore celebrated his first anniversary as chief in June.

His plan calls for dismissing old quality-of-life warrants that can rack up hundreds of dollars in fees and often plague homeless people who can't pay or show up for court.

Moore said he would prefer police to focus on criminal behavior rather than low-level offenses "that get in the way of people's recovery because they were cited for something one, two, three, four years ago."

"We have hundreds of thousands of bench warrants that haven't been served in years," the chief said. "We need to clear the docket."

Moore did not offer details about his proposal Wednesday, and his spokesman, Joshua Rubenstein, said he did not have additional information such as a timeframe for when the warrants would be cleared. City prosecutors, who would have to work with the police department to eliminate the warrants, declined to comment.

Moore said he doesn't see homelessness as a law enforcement issue but rather a public health and safety concern that requires greater investment in mental health, sanitation, hygiene and housing resources. He declined to name any entity responsible for the burgeoning crisis.

Police and firefighters are on the streets dealing with homeless people at all hours, Moore said, but they don't see anyone in uniform offering other services.

"Where's our outreach workers, where's our mental health workers?" he said. "I would love to see outreach workers wearing a vest. I would love for the public to be able to drive up and down the street and see outreach workers readily identifiable conducting outreach and engagement to people experiencing homelessness."

Moore decried the city's homeless death toll — about 900 people last year and roughly 800 in 2017 — but said he was encouraged by recent tax measures. They include a 2016 voter-approved proposition that lets the city issue $1.2 billion in bonds to build housing as well as billions of dollars in proposed state funding to address homelessness.

On marijuana legalization, the chief said law enforcement needs to target black market financiers and building owners who rent to illegal pot shops. Arresting store operators isn't working, he said.

"We have to get out of first gear on this," Moore said.

Moore said he's encouraged that officer-involved shootings have decreased from 46 in 2017, when 17 people were killed, to 33 last year, when 12 people died. There have been 13 shootings as of July 8, in which six people died, but he said the goal is always zero.

The department also is researching less-lethal options as an alternative to firearms.

Moore's other goals include promoting a diverse workforce that reflects the city as the next generation of LAPD supervisors so they can lead the department for the 2028 Olympics.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Fed Up With Man Renting Vans to Homeless]]>Tue, 09 Jul 2019 18:28:12 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/venice-vanlord-renting-homeless-july2019-new.png

People who live in a Venice Beach neighborhood are fed up with homeless people renting vans to sleep in that take up parking spaces.

In the stretch on Riviera Avenue near Grand Boulevard, three vans come back registered to the same person: he's known as the "vanlord."

Neighbors said he rents them out for as much as $300 a month, moving them from street to street.

"Any homeless people watching - don't rent from people like this!" Lucas Dark said.

Dark is a homeless man who's looking for the so-called vanlord because he says he's been renting a van for the past 12 weeks, and paying $300 a month.

But Tuesday, the van was moved with all his belongings inside. He says the vanlord has more than a dozen vehicles that he rents out on Craigslist.

It's illegal to sleep in a vehicle on designated residential streets in Venice Beach. Neighbors said along with taking up limited parking spaces, some van dwellers toss sewage and trash on public sidewalks.

"We've seen them dumping buckets; coming out and dropping their pants and using driveways as a latrine," said Mark Ryavec of the Venice Stakeholders Association.

The mysterious vanlord spoke to NBCLA by phone, but declined to comment on the vans.

There are some parking lots that allow people to sleep in their cars overnight, but homeless advocates say more are needed, especially in Los Angeles, where housing prices have skyrocketed.

Neighbors have called the Los Angeles Police Department about the vanlord but have yet to receive a response.

LAPD said they're aware of the problem with van rentals and they are investigating. But they admit it's a hard problem to solve because they have to catch the person inside the van during overnight hours in order to issue a citation.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Man Killed in Confrontation With CHP Officer]]>Sat, 06 Jul 2019 14:39:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/oak-view-homeless-shooting-stirnger-july2019.PNG

The California Highway Patrol says an officer has shot and killed a homeless man who attacked him.

It happened shortly after 6 a.m. Friday in Oak View, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The 20-year-old died at the scene. His name wasn't immediately released.

The CHP says an officer who received a report of a man walking in traffic on Portal Street near Highway 33, the LA Times reported. CHP says the man attacked the officer, and the officer then fired a single shot that hit the man in the chest.

The officer was treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Additional details of the confrontation weren't immediately released.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: RMG]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor Eric Garcetti to President Donald Trump: Let's Fix Homeless Crisis]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2019 02:10:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1147031686.jpg

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed forming a politically unlikely partnership Tuesday to take on the city's homeless crisis: with President Donald Trump.

The Democratic mayor whose downtown streets have become home to filthy, drug-infested encampments for thousands of people issued a public invitation for the president to walk the streets with him and see firsthand the suffering and desperation.

The growing homeless crisis in L.A. and across the nation "is not his fault, nor is it my fault, it is something that has been decades in the making," the mayor said, noting that both Democratic and Republican cities have too many people on the streets.

"I welcome federal involvement in helping us solve homelessness," the mayor said.

Garcetti's offer for a bipartisan alliance came a day after the president called the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other big cities disgraceful and threatened to intercede, although he provided no specifics on steps he was considering.

While Garcetti said he wanted cooperation with Washington, Trump faulted the "liberal establishment" for the problem in an interview with Fox News.

"We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It's inappropriate," Trump said.

The mayor avoided a combative tone, telling KNX Radio in Los Angeles that he's not interested in scoring political points and wants to work with Trump to save lives. It's a good day when the president talks about homelessness, he said.

But the mayor did take issue with the president on a few points.

Trump said in the interview that the surge in homelessness and encampments started two years ago. However, problems with the homeless population and L.A.'s notorious Skid Row neighborhood extend into the last century.

While not solely attacking Trump, he said cuts in federal housing funds also contribute to the homelessness spiral.

"We know liberalism didn't cause homelessness, any more than conservatism causes homelessness," Garcetti said. "Poverty and mental health and trauma and high rent cause homelessness."

Trump would make an unlikely pairing with the mayor, who comes from a heavily Democratic state recognized as the center of the so-called Trump resistance. Trump lost California to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by over 4 million votes.

The president's remarks in the midst of his re-election campaign echo familiar themes — pointing a finger at Democrats he blames for opposing his agenda on immigration and other national problems.

He depicted Democratic-led San Francisco and Los Angeles as dysfunctional, politically liberal cities, adding, "This is what I'm fighting."

On Monday, Trump lashed out at state Democrats who want to fund health care for some adults who entered the U.S. illegally. "It's very unfair to our citizens and we're going to stop it, but we may need an election to stop it," the president said in Washington.

Last year, when Garcetti was considering a possible White House run, he said Trump had done "plenty of racist things" to divide the nation while failing to deliver on health care reform and other promises.

Garcetti was elected promising to focus on paving streets and other government basics. But homelessness has come to overshadow his early agenda, and he's facing a possible recall election over public unrest over the spreading problem.

Figures released in June showed a 16% jump in Los Angeles' homeless population over the last year, pegging it at 36,300 — the size of a small city. The jump came after the mayor helped convince voters in 2016 to borrow $1.2 billion to construct housing for the homeless.

Garcetti used a tougher tone in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, calling Trump's comments "political cheap shots."

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters in Emeryville that Trump neglected to mention the thriving economies in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but added that homelessness is a major problem that is growing worse.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Seen Sleeping in Piles of Trash Near Train Tracks]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2019 06:17:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Encampments_Near_Train_Tracks.jpg

Neighbors said they have seen upwards of 30 people living in tents and pop ups at this encampment on the railroad tracks. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Street Cleanup Gets Underway in Downtown LA]]>Mon, 01 Jul 2019 18:21:03 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/dtla-cleanup-homeless-june2019.jpgA cleanup was underway Monday in the downtown Civic Center area in Los Angeles as the city attempts to wrangle a growing homelessness problem in the area. People living on the street were told to remove all personal belongings from the street, according to a flyer posted by the Los Angeles City Sanitation Department.

Photo Credit: Toni Guinayrd]]>
<![CDATA[Where's Beef? Man Believes Dog Taken by Homeless Man]]>Sun, 30 Jun 2019 13:58:49 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/missing-dog-beef-homeless-june2019.jpg

A man says his English bulldog named Beef was stolen from his backyard in Koreatown weeks ago, and never seen again — until a neighbor spotted a similar-looking dog with a homeless man and began recording. 

Two weeks prior, Doug Kim said Beef, his beloved English bulldog, was in his backyard. Then the dog was stolen. 

Kim said he began spreading the word any way he could, posting on the Nextdoor app, putting in a Craigslist ad — anything to get his 5-year-old dog back. 

"Putting out the posters, fliers, talking to neighbor," Kim said.

As he checked in on the online posts, some neighbors said they recognized a man from homeless encampments in the area with a similar looking dog.

Then, Kim's friend actually spotted the man and the dog near the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood. She began recording. 

"I got news for you — that’s my friend’s stolen dog," she can be heard saying.

Then she said: 

"I already called the cops, dude."

The man responds: "That's fine. It's not the same dog!"

But Kim saw the video, and he knows it's Beef. 

"Yeah, that's Beef," Kim said. "The way he stands, the way he walks, (and) the way he doesn't want to walk."

Kim said the dog has a genetic disorder which makes him walk in a crooked-like fashion, something he said he noticed right away in the video. But despite discovering where his dog Beef was, Kim chose not to identify the man because as of yet, there is no proof that a crime has been committed.

"I don't want to criminalize homeless people or anything like that. I'd just like to get my dog back," said Kim.

While Beef is microchipped, a Los Angeles Police Department officer told Kim unless the homeless man is willing to hand over the pup, there's nothing the police can do. 

LAPD officers don't carry scanners with them to determine if the dog is microchipped, and LA Animal Services said they were never called regarding a missing dog. Kim said he just hopes it is not too late to find Beef and get him back.

The dog was last seen in North Hollywood and Burbank and the man who was said to have his dog appeared to be in his 30s or 40s with thinning hair and a red beard.

For now Beef's owner only has one thing on his mind: "Get him home, as soon as possible."

Photo Credit: Doug Kim]]>
<![CDATA[English Bulldog Allegedly Stolen by Homeless Man]]>Thu, 27 Jun 2019 18:47:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/English_Bulldog_Allegedly_Stolen_by_Homeless_Man.jpg

A Koreatown man said his beloved English Bulldog named Beef went missing, and then someone who saw his flyer shot a video showing a man who is homeless had a very similar looking pooch. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Los Angeles City Council Asks State to Match Homeless Funds]]>Wed, 26 Jun 2019 19:32:44 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Los_Angeles_Council_Poses_Homelessness_Plan.jpg

The Los Angeles City Council is pushing for state help to tackle homeless crisis. John Cádiz Klemack reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Myths About the Homeless Crisis in LA]]>Wed, 26 Jun 2019 11:23:05 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Myths_About_the_Homeless_Crisis_in_LA.jpg

Debunking myths regarding the homeless crisis in Los Angeles. John Cádiz Klemack has more for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 25, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrities BBQ on Skid Row Ahead of Awards Show]]>Mon, 24 Jun 2019 06:43:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Celebrities_BBQ_on_Skid_Row_Ahead_of_Awards_Show.jpg

An Los Angeles-based community group says every time big money comes to town, they want to show where very little is being spent. That's why an afternoon barbecue on Skid Row brought out more than a thousand people: in the shadow of this weekend's BET Awards at Staples Center. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 21, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Pictures: Part of LA River Bike Path Littered With Refuse]]>Wed, 26 Jun 2019 10:46:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/homeless-la-river-bike-path-june-2019.jpg

Photo Credit: Evelyn Aleman]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Have Taken Over LA River Bike Path, Residents Say]]>Fri, 21 Jun 2019 06:26:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Getting_Involved_in_the_Homeless_Crisis.jpg

NBC4 spent a day with the Los Angeles River walkers and watchers, neighbors who say they took it upon themselves to do something when they realize both the city and the county weren't. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Mayor of LA Announces Plan to Clean Up Homeless Encampments]]>Wed, 19 Jun 2019 18:28:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1154330082.jpg

The Mayor of Los Angeles, amid growing rancor and a push to recall him from his post over the handling of the homelessness epidemic, announced his plan Tuesday to clean it all up.

Mayor Eric Garcetti's afternoon news conference with Councilmen Mike Bonin, Paul Krekorian and Curren Price, comes in the wake of  ⁦NBCLA⁩ I-Team reports on the city's trash, rat infestations, and filth from homeless encampments.

Tuesday the Mayor credited "good journalism" with exposing the health hazards splintering from the growing homelessness issue in LA.

The plan cites that the city of LA will begin deploying CARE teams in each district and by the LA River.

Garcetti first said anyone could already call 311 to get help from the city in cleaning up a pile of trash next to a homeless encampment, and this service will not change. 

Now, with the help of CARE teams, along with the crews who are committed to daily trash pickup, the city will also deploy mobile hygiene stations.

CARE plus teams will also be dedicated to  comprehensive cleanup in the homeless encampments themselves. 

CARE teams will also make an effort to get to know the housed and homeless people in each neighborhood. Garcetti said these teams will be able to provide focused care for the homeless population, and possibly help provide them with information on how to obtain other necessary services, such as mental health care.

"It's not rocket science. It's skyrocketing rent and low wages, or underemployment," said councilman Mitch O'Farrell. 

Mike Bonin, who sits on the Homelessness and Poverty committee, said it is the city's responsibility to make the public aware that though the plan has been announced, it will not happen overnight. 

He said money has been spent on a program that no one was really happy with, which is why the plan created by the Department of Sanitation and touted by Garcetti Wednesday is important. 

"What we're doing today is a fundamental rethinking," he said. 

"When someone is living on the street, there's trash they will generate. So lets provide trash receptacles," Bonin said. "We need to make public health the priority, and that's what we're doing."

While currently a homeless person's belongings can't be removed from the street without a proper place to store it, Garcetti and the councilmembers didn't specifically address illegal dumping.

A day before, a group of voters took the first steps to recall the mayor over the handling of the homelessness issue and health concerns from the encampments.

The mayor said the attempt is a political stunt.

See the latest in NBCLA's coverage here on the homelessness crisis in Southern California. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Map: Responding to Homelessness in Los Angeles County]]>Wed, 19 Jun 2019 09:21:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/As_Gangs_Target_Skid_Row_LA_Plans_Solutions.jpg

The maps above are part of NBC4's Streets of Shame series covering homelessness in Los Angeles.

One map shows the rate of homeless per 1,000 residents (from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) as well as the locations of repeated homeless encampment cleanups carried out by the city. You can click any feature on the map for more information.

The second map shows the relationship between homeless populations and available shelters/services as curated by the the City of Los Angeles. Black dots represent the locations of homeless shelters/services.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Some Say Skid Row Cleanup Effort is a Band-Aid on a Hemorrhaging Wound]]>Wed, 19 Jun 2019 02:02:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/skid-row-homeless-rats-june2019.jpg

Skid row boasts one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in the country. Amid the tents, bicycles and boxes is what city hall now sees as a health crisis.

In the latest attempt to do something to clean up areas around Skid Row, some say it's only a bandage for what has become a hemorrhaging wound.

"This is hard-core," said Estela Lopez, the executive director of the Downtown Industrial District business improvement district.

She said new attempts from city hall to clean up the garbage disaster NBCLA's I-Team has uncovered is still not enough.

"We are about to enter the summer in Los Angeles with the highest number of people ever living on our sidewalks. That's going to have consequences and I'm afraid for our city," Lopez.

She said the city is trying to manage the homeless problem instead of solving it.

"We need 5,000 beds today. And another 5,000 next month. And another 5,000 the month after that. That's what you're going to need to now solve this problem," Lopez said.

Skid row is in LA City Councilman Jose Huizar's district, and he sees it as an emergency.

"We have the largest concentration of homeless in LA — in Skid Row in particular. About 4 to 5,000 people wander around looking for service. At night we have 2,000 who sleep on the street. You can't find that anywhere else in the country," he said.

His latest plan is to get more money to pay formerly homeless people to help in the cleanup effort, because of the huge backlog of complaints to the city's department of sanitation.

"We want our department to be proactive, No. 1, increase the number of personnel that they have to do these types of cleanups and also to increase enforcement," he said.

But Lopez says she's seen this idea before.

"I see a lot of proposals from well-intentioned people wanting to solve this problem by bits and bits. That's not how you approach an emergency," she said.

There are still some steps to go through before they can get the money approved and if it does.

"In this city we have an embarrassment of riches. Medical professionals, mental health professionals — why aren't they being rallied? Why aren't we calling on all of them to get us out of this problem?" Lopez said.

See the latest in NBCLA's coverage here on the homelessness crisis in Southern California. 

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Group Wants Mayor Garcetti Recalled Over Homeless Crisis]]>Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:43:43 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/homeless-la-2019-mayor.jpg

A group of registered voters delivered a letter of intent to Mayor Eric Garcetti, calling Los Angeles a death camp for the homeless, and saying they want Garcetti out for his ineffectual handling of the homelessness crisis.

The group said NBCLA's coverage of the homelessness epidemic, along with the NBCLA I-Team's coverage of the rodent problem and growing typhus cases, have opened their eyes.

"I'm just an Angeleno trying to make it in the big city and I think this city is breaking people," said Alexandra Datig, one of the petitioners pushing for a recall on Mayor Garcetti.

More than 7,000 people and counting have provided electronic signatures toward a symbolic recall request online at Change.org.

"Whatever Eric Garcetti is doing, his best, it's not good enough," Datig said.

Last week the mayor took to Twitter to talk about the homelessness crisis, calling it the second greatest disaster in California's history.

He took full responsibility in the video, saying he was also heartbroken and impatient.

"Since Proposition HHH passed, we have more than a hundred homeless housing developments in the pipeline," he said in the video.

The group of registered voters who took concrete action Monday signed a letter of intent to recall Mayor Eric Garcetti.

It means they'll need 350,000 physical signatures from registered voters to get the measure on a ballot. While they know it stems from a symbolic move online with the Change.org petition, they took it from symbolism to reality with their message to city hall.

"Whether they believe this is going to be successful or not, they have a responsibility to take it serious," David Hernandez, a petitioner, said.

They will serve the mayor with a formal notice of intent this week, then file with the city clerk. Once approved, they can begin to gather signatures.

"You have eight people come down with the measles in Disneyland, and Sacramento has changed the vaccine mandatory for every kid going to school in the state. Yet we have a thousand people dying in the streets of Los Angeles and it's like, eh, it's just an online petition, it doesn't matter," Hernandez said.

The group of voters say they're ready to rise to the challenge.

"We don't want any more excuses from this mayor. We want him to step down. We want him gone and we want leadership that is going to take care of this city. This city has become a death camp for the homeless," Datig said.

A spokesman for the mayor issued a statement late Monday.

"Mayor Garcetti is intensely focused on the homelessness crisis and the last thing Los Angeles needs right now are people playing political games with this critical issue,"  said Bill Carrick.

Homelessness in Los Angeles County spiked by 12 percent over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released June 4.

Click here to see the results of the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which ties the increase to the region's housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

See the latest in NBCLA's coverage here into the homelessness crisis in Southern California. 

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[A Lot of Money Was Doled Out for Homeless Services in LA]]>Fri, 14 Jun 2019 16:13:36 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/streets-of-shame-2019-07.jpg

The Los Angeles City Council doled out millions of dollars Friday for various homeless services projects, including a temporary bridge housing facility in San Pedro and improved access to restrooms and showers for people living on Skid Row.

The council voted unanimously to allocate roughly $2.7 million toward Skid Row-area services, while also routing $7.1 million toward the A Bridge Home housing site at 515 N. Beacon St. in San Pedro and $13.1 million to cover increased costs of other temporary housing facilities across the city.

For Skid Row, the council allocated $2.7 million in state Homeless Emergency Aid Program funds to provide expanded access to showers and restrooms at St. Vincent de Paul and The People Concern facilities; improvements at The Bin storage-space facility; deployment of two more Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Homeless Engagement Teams; addition of at least five drinking fountains located with attended public toilets; and collection boxes aimed at reducing improper disposal of hazardous materials.

City Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes parts of the downtown area and Skid Row, introduced a motion Friday calling for another $2.8 million allocation of state grant funds for bathrooms, water stations and storage facilities in the Skid Row area.

"During the day, we have about 4,000 to 5,000 people walking around Skid Row, looking for services," Huizar said. "At nighttime, 2,000 people live on the streets in Skid Row. You can't find that anywhere else in the country but here in Los Angeles. For too many years, we've not had the urgency that we should apply to Skid Row and address this humanitarian crisis."

Last year, Huizar requested that $20 million in the state grant funds be allocated to Skid Row, out of the overall $85 million the city received.

Before Friday's vote, the city had allocated about $5.6 million of that funding for Skid Row, according to the city. In January, about $1.3 million of that allocation was approved for a three-year lease, services and 119 beds for the bridge housing site at Paloma Street, as well as $350,000 for an overnight shelter at the Downtown Women's Center.

If the council approves Huizar's latest request for another $2.8 million, it will raise the overall amount allocated to Skid Row to about $11 million, with about $9 million more expected to be designated in the coming months. Huizar said he hopes to get an additional $20 million in state funding for Skid Row support and service programs.

"This is not even beginning to scratch at the surface,'' he said. "We need a lot more support. This city needs to allocate the additional funding immediately and put the infrastructure in place to be able to put that money to action."

Another motion introduced by Huizar Friday called for the relocation of an already operating shower facility to Skid Row. He introduced a motion earlier this week asking the city to work with LAHSA to consider establishing another bridge housing site near St. Barnabas Episcopal Church at 2109 Chickasaw Ave.

Homelessness in Los Angeles County spiked by 12 percent over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released June 4. 

Click here to see the results of the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which ties the increase to the region's housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

See the latest in NBCLA's coverage here into the homelessness crisis in Southern California. 

Photo Credit: Khallid Shabazz]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Resource Hub Opens to Serve Northeast San Fernando Valley]]>Fri, 07 Jun 2019 05:14:44 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Is_Money_for_Cleaning_Homeless_Encampments_Going_to_Waste_.jpg

A homeless family-resource hub has opened in the northeast San Fernando Valley, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez announced Thursday.

The hub at the North Valley Caring Services campus is coordinated through a partnership with the city of Los Angeles, homeless service providers and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"A critical gap exists between the services available and a family's ability to access them," Rodriguez said. "It takes all of us working collaboratively to combat the homelessness crisis on our streets and in our schools -- this is a responsibility we all share."

The service center will have in-house case managers, housing navigation services, a food security program, shower services, activities for children living in motels, workforce development and child care.

"Placing families in motels is only the first step in helping our homeless families, and we must also provide them with basic necessities such as food, clothing and a sense of security to help them succeed," said Manny Flores, the executive director of NVCS.

Rodriguez was the author of a motion to garner more than $500,000 through California's Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) to establish the center. The program will be operated by NVCS, a nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income individuals and families in North Hills and surrounding neighborhoods. LAUSD will be able to directly refer students and families for services.

The northeast San Fernando Valley has about 17,000 students who qualify for homeless services under the school district's programs, based on an LAUSD survey.

Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima has the highest percentage of students who qualify in the school district.

<![CDATA[LA Mayor Blames Businesses, Not Homeless, For Rat-Infested Trash on Streets]]>Fri, 07 Jun 2019 10:29:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Cleanup-downtown-LA-trash-pileup-May-2019.jpg

After facing international headlines about LA's out-of-control garbage and rodent problem, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Thursday unveiled steps to clean up trash-filled streets.

And the mayor put the blame for piles of waste left on city streets, on unnamed businesses that he says dump trash to avoid disposal fees.

"We will not tolerate businesses that use our public streets, our spaces, our alleyways, as their private dumping ground," Garcetti said from a podium on Ceres Avenue.

Ceres Avenue has become an international embarrassment for the mayor, after the NBC4 I-Team last month exposed how the city allowed trash to pile up eight feet high and a block long for months, even when citizens complained to 311.

The I-Team's stories went viral worldwide.

Garcetti Thursday stood on a cleaned up Ceres Avenue, with a city sanitation truck positioned behind him, to discuss steps the city will now take to crackdown on businesses that he says illegally dump their waste on LA’s streets. New efforts will include posting surveillance cameras to catch the lawbreakers, deploying undercover sanitation officers to spot them, and pursuing prosecution.

But some politicians and downtown residents say the Mayor is avoiding the real issue: the hundreds of homeless encampments across LA that generate most of the trashy piles that are breeding grounds for disease-carrying rodents. On Tuesday, a survey released by officials showed a 16% increase in the city's homeless population.

"The bulk of the trash stems from these encampments throughout the city," LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino told NBC4.

Buscaino worked the streets of LA as an LAPD officer for 15 years, often interacting with the homeless.

"I feel that homeless encampments are a major source of trash and rat infestation and I know that based on my experience working the streets of Los Angeles for many years," the councilman said.

Buscaino has proposed a solution to the trash problem: have the city hire homeless people to clean up litter on the streets. He introduced a motion in the city council to create a pilot program back in 2017, but the city has yet to fund it.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Rodent Population Keeps Growing, Increases Chance of Disease]]>Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:52:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-731852477.jpg

Rats crawling through the streets of Los Angeles are feasting on piles of uncollected trash. The NBC4 I-Team exposed the problem recently, and the city vowed to clean it up, but we found evidence the city's rodent population is growing pushing rats and possible diseases closer to homes and businesses. Joel Grover reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Monday, June 10, 2019.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/EyeEm]]>
<![CDATA[LA City Controller Frustrated Over Homeless Crisis]]>Thu, 06 Jun 2019 06:52:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LA_City_Controller_Frustrated_Over_Homeless_Crisis.jpg

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin speaks out for the first time since the release of the homeless count proved the crisis in LA is at an all-time high. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Map Shows Areas of LA With Biggest Spikes in Homeless]]>Tue, 04 Jun 2019 18:31:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/homeless+los+angeles+june+4+2019.JPG

Four parts of Los Angeles County are seeing at least a 35 percent jump in the number of homeless people.

The issue stretches south from San Pedro to parts of the San Fernando Valley and into some of LA's biggest tourist attractions. LA Live and the LA Convention Center attract thousands of tourists and business every day. The landmarks are part of district 9, an area seeing a 38 percent increase in the number of homeless people this year.

District 15, which stretches from Wilmington to San Pedro, saw a 45 percent jump. The problem continues into District 3 which spans the West Valley to Woodland Hills to Winnetka. The largest increase in one region, District 4, saw a 53 percent jump. Those are the neighborhoods near some of LA's most iconic destinations, Griffith Park and the Miracle Mile.

The NBC4 I-Team has tracked the dramatic increase in people living in tents and RVs over the least year. A recent legal settlement by the city extends the restrictions of police and city workers from removing property belonging to the homeless. The restrictions have been blamed for by downtown business owners for contributing, in part, to increased reports of trash piles, rodents and disease and police say the tents are being used by criminals and gang members. Homeless advocates say there is a need for more permanent housing.

Today's report says the number of people living in tents and makeshift shelters rose 17 percent and those in cars or RVs was up 5 percent. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority says this indicates that more people are experiencing homelessness for the first time. They say they have increased outreach staff including clinical experts and folks who can deal with mental illness.

Also LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis says there is a need to expand services countywide and not center it all in one or two locations. She says new shelters like the one that opened in Pomona in December and another in the San Gabriel Valley this year are critical to helping make change. Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties each reported homeless count increases of over 20 percent according to Solis.

Here's Solis' statement on the Homeless Count.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[New Report Says LA County's Homeless Population Increased by 12 Percent Over Past Year]]>Wed, 05 Jun 2019 08:50:37 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless-showers-program-LA.jpg

Homelessness in Los Angeles County spiked by 12 percent over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released Tuesday

Click here to see the results of the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which ties the increase to the region's housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

"We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America. Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night," according to LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn.

The city of Los Angeles saw a 16 percent increase in its numbers.

The estimates aren't just to illustrate the extent of the problem. They're used to help allocate state and federal resources. Much of the count happened at night. In areas that were difficult to reach, like river beds, law enforcement helped out.

Though the number of chronically homeless individuals has increased by 17 percent, demographers and statisticians responsible for the count said they believe the real issue is the inflow of newly homeless people.

Phil Ansell, who runs the county's Homeless Initiative said it may seem counterintuitive, but "a booming economy can actually lead to an increase in homelessness."

He said that in a growing economy, rental rates have outpaced wages, particularly for people living at the margins and making minimum wage. A minimum-wage employee would have to work 79 hours a week at $13.25 per hour to afford the rent in an average one-bedroom apartment, Lynn said.

The numbers are up despite tens of thousands of people who have moved off the streets and into permanent housing. In the last year alone, the county has helped 21,631 people find permanent homes and another 27,080 who were homeless at some point during the year were able to lift themselves out of homelessness, according to the data.

But officials say more needs to be done to increase the supply of affordable housing and prevent other families from falling into homelessness. Los Angeles County officials said they are adding strategies geared at combating economic factors. When the Board of Supervisors approved $460 million in Measure H spending on homelessness three weeks ago, it focused on finding ways to offset rising rental rates and provide opportunities for steady employment through an employment task force and jobs training program.

County officials have backed a bill to speed conversions of motels into supportive housing units and is considering housing homeless veterans at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall downtown, among other local efforts to increase the amount of shelter space, bridge housing and permanent supportive housing units.

The county has also put a 3 percent cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas and is backing statewide legislation to limit rents and prevent landlords from unjustly evicting tenants. However, California voters rejected a 2018 proposal to give local governments more latitude to enact rent controls.

There is a pipeline of more than 10,000 affordable units, but only 1,397 are on track to be available in fiscal year 2019-20. However, Ansell said the state can take action immediately on three key issues that could help alleviate the problem sooner, including pending legislation prohibiting rent gouging, evictions without cause and discrimination against renters with housing subsidies.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Numbers Rise in Los Angeles]]>Tue, 04 Jun 2019 17:58:43 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Numbers_Rise_in_Los_Angeles.jpg

The Los Angeles city homeless population jumped by 16 percent. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Homelessness Crisis Crippling Downtown LA Business]]>Tue, 04 Jun 2019 08:28:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homelessness_Crisis_Crippling_Downtown_LA_Business.jpg

Homelessness is shutting down businesses and affected business in downtown Los Angeles. John Cadiz Klemack reports for NBC4 News at 8 p.m. on June 3, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[LA Extends, Expands Restrictions on Seizing Property Belonging to Homeless]]>Wed, 29 May 2019 16:31:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/trash-skid-row-may2019.PNG

A legal settlement filed Wednesday extends restrictions for three more years on when Los Angeles Police officers or other City workers may remove property that belongs to people experiencing homelessness from streets and sidewalks.

Those restrictions have been blamed by Downtown business owners and residents for, in part, contributing to increasing reports of trash piles, vermin, and disease, including Typhus infections.

The agreement in the case titled Mitchell vs. City of Los Angeles ends a yearslong challenge by advocates for the homeless who argued the City was illegally destroying the personal property of people when they were arrested or had interactions with City officials.

As part of the settlement the City will pay the attorneys for the homeless plaintiffs $645,000, and will expand the restriction zone to a larger area of Downtown bound by 2nd, Alameda, 8th, and Main Streets.

The legal case was brought by advocates from several organizations including the Los Angeles Community Action Network, that said it hoped the settlement pushed the City toward finding and funding long term housing solutions, rather than fixating on street enforcement of municipal law.

"I hope this is the signal this is the sign, the proverbial crossroads, that insists we spend our money and our time on things that actually get people off the street," said LA-CAN executive director Pete White.

"In the interim, it is our hope that at least this provides some legal guardrails both for houseless people on the street as well as those public servants who are paid to treat the public humanely and responsibly," he said.

The City Attorney's Office said while the agreement continues certain limits on what sanitation workers and police can do, it rolls back even greater restrictions that had been imposed by a court order.

"In sum, the settlement provides the City the authority and flexibility it needs to address health and safety issues related to homelessness in the area covered by the agreement, and avoids the stricter limitations imposed by the court's injunction on the City's ability to clean and protect its public areas," the City Attorney's Office said in a statement.

The terms of the agreement require police officers and city workers to give the homeless 24 hours notice of any cleanups, a second, 30-minute warning of a cleanup, and the immediate return of property if a person demands it after a cleanup has begun. Cleanups are also prohibited if the temperature is below 50 degrees.

If a homeless person is being arrested the City has promised the person's property will be safely stored at a City building for at least 90 days, with a mechanism for people to reclaim their property as soon as 3 days after it's stored. There's also a provision for more immediate access if the property includes tents, sleeping bags, or blankets.

The City has also agreed to keep documentation of property seizures that happen within the settlement area to, "document compliance."

"The Mitchell settlement will only perpetuate the public health crisis that already exists in Skid Row and will set a precedent for the rest of the City that will normalize encampments," City Councilman Joe Buscaino said in a statement. "The City is sending a clear signal that we are turning the sidewalks in Skid Row into free, unlimited public storage, doing a disservice to the residents of Los Angeles especially those living on the streets."

Messages left with the attorneys who filed the case were not immediately returned. The legal agreement was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Families Worried by Growing Homeless Encampment Near School]]>Thu, 23 May 2019 18:09:42 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Families_Worried_by_Growing_Homeless_Encampment_Near_School.jpg

The city says it regularly cleans the Eagle Rock area, but parents say their children are witnessing drug use and sex work while walking to school. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. May 23, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Attorneys for Homeless Threaten to Sue to Block San Clemente Plan]]>Thu, 23 May 2019 02:20:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/san-clemente-homeless-may2019.jpg

Attorneys who have sued on behalf of Orange County's homeless to block enforcement of anti-camping ordinances sent a letter to San Clemente officials Wednesday objecting to a plan to set up a fenced, outdoor camping area in the seaside city and threatening litigation if the plan goes forward.

The San Clemente City Council on Tuesday voted to set up a designated area for transients in a city yard near Avenida Pico and Avenida Vista Hermosa.

City officials want to move the area's transients from the north beach area of the city.

City staff wrote in a report to the council that the city can adopt an emergency ordinance to prohibit transients from camping at the beach.

"However, this ban on enforcement does not apply when the city finds that exigent circumstances relating to immediate threats to the public health, safety, and welfare so dictate," the staff report says. "This ordinance makes such findings."

City officials said in the staff report that they were "actively working" with county officials "and other stakeholders to develop both temporary and permanent solutions to this regional crisis." In the meantime, they maintain the city has right to prohibit "sitting, lying, or sleeping outside at particular times or in particular locations" and to "designate certain public property for camping in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare of homeless persons and the general public welfare."

The attorneys for the homeless say the city is mistaken, citing a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that prohibits the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances unless municipal officials can establish they have provided adequate shelter space as an alternative.

Attorneys Carol Sobel, Brooke Weitzman and Catherine Sweetser, who represent the homeless in the Orange County federal litigation before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, penned the letter objecting to the plan to move transients "to a fenced parking lot that will be subject to monitoring and security."

They said city officials have mistakenly interpreted the 9th Circuit ruling and deliberately "misquoted" part of it to avoid providing "indoor" shelter.

"The city may not avoid the requirement of adequate indoor shelter," their letter says. "If the city enforces its urgent ordinance, it will violate the Eighth Amendment under (the recent federal appellate ruling)."

The attorneys noted that the city failed to pass an emergency shelter ordinance earlier that would have allowed it to qualify for "considerable funds" through Homeless Emergency Aid Program grants.

"The city also has an offer of nearly $1 million from the Emergency Shelter Coalition," the attorneys' letter says. "In any event, a defense of indigency will not excuse the city from the obligation to comply with the law in this instance."

The attorneys said the city's plan "replicates the inhumane camps now holding refugees and asylum seekers along the southern border of the United States. Unsheltered individuals are not criminals. The city is not even willing to provide basic shelters for individuals at this location."

They said the lot has a "gravel base" that will make the land hot during the summer and provide no shade, and argued that confining transients to a fenced area with security would be a Fourth Amendment violation.

Messages left with city officials were not immediately returned.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Opposition Grows for Old LAUSD Sites to be Used as Homeless Shelters]]>Wed, 22 May 2019 18:59:19 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LAUSD_Sites_to_be_Possibly_Used_as_Homeless_Shelters.jpg

Opposition grows to LAUSD using sites as potential homeless shelters. Ted Chen reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 22, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[San Clemente at Odds Over How to Help the Homeless]]>Tue, 21 May 2019 18:46:33 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/san-clemente-homeless-may2019.jpg

An overflow crowd is expected at Tuesday night's city council meeting in the coastal town of San Clemente as the contentious problem of homelessness is leading to contentious solutions.

After a federal lawsuit alleged Orange County cities, San Clemente included, have done little to house their share of the homeless, the struggle of what to do has gotten more complicated.

There are residents in San Clemente who believe the homeless in this city are on the wrong track.

They point to a growing encampment near the Amtrak station next to north beach. But without a shelter, the city cannot enforce an anti-camping ordinance.

"On the trail, they leave needles and trash and excrement behind boxes," said resident Becky Deliannis.

Mercy House counselors say they are trying to help with that problem by offering the homeless a path to housing.

Another group called Friendship Shelter also just bought a 17-unit apartment complex which will soon become permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

Director Dawn Price says their issues are the same as others who have a roof over their heads.

"The difference between them and people we want to help through this program is that they have support to keep themselves stability-housed, and we want to provide that support so we can do the same," Price said.

But it means the current residents will have to move out.

"They're playing monopoly with real people's lives," said David Ellis, who is being evicted.

The new buyers say they will help with relocation costs for those who must leave. But it's clear neighbors are not ready to roll out the welcome mat.

The animosity back at the train station is growing too as residents confront and question the homeless.

"It's crazy. Nothing can be done right now," Bonnie Bird, resident, said.

In the meantime, Bird said she now puts some distance between the homeless and her children.

According to the most recent Point in Time count this year, there are close to 7,000 homeless in Orange County, with about 150 on the streets of San Clemente.

In 2017, the count was at 4,792.

Photo Credit: NBCLA]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Encampment Fire Raises Concerns]]>Mon, 20 May 2019 19:42:20 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Encampment_Fire_Raises_Concerns.jpg

The number of reported fires in homeless camps has nearly tripled in two years, and there was another Sunday in Hollywood beneath the 101 Freeway. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, May 20, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Neighbors Says Vacant Hollywood Building Causing Crime]]>Sat, 18 May 2019 22:34:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Neighbors_Says_Vacant_Hollywood_Building_Causing_Crime.jpg

Neighbors say a vacant building is attracting criminals. Gene Kang reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 17, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Vacant Bus Yard to Become 154-Bed Homeless Shelter in Venice]]>Thu, 16 May 2019 12:56:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/venice-homeless-shelter-may2019.jpg

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has selected People Assisting the Homeless to manage and operate a bridge housing facility set to open in Venice this summer, Councilman Mike Bonin announced Thursday.

The facility, which will provide 100 beds for adults and 54 beds for youth, was recently cleared to open when a judge denied a preliminary injunction that would have held up its construction.

People Assisting the Homeless, which Bonin's office said is one of the nation's most successful and respected homeless service providers, will be the lead operator of the site and will work with Venice-based Safe Place for Youth.

"I am thrilled to be moving forward with such an excellent team," Bonin said. "PATH and SPY are highly regarded service providers with a history of success, years of experience in the community, and a great track record of working with neighbors. I am confident they will make Bridge Home Venice a success.''

Bonin proposed the Venice location -- a vacant bus yard owned by Metro at 100 E. Sunset Ave. -- as a location for Mayor Eric Garcetti's A Bridge Home program, which calls for installing temporary shelters in each of the city's 15 council districts.

The City Council voted in December to move forward with developing the shelter, triggering a lawsuit by the Venice Stakeholders Association to stop the shelter from moving forward.

The judge's ruling last week cleared the way for construction on the shelter to begin, although a trial is scheduled for October on the VSA's overall arguments against the shelter.

The Bridge Home program was first announced by Garcetti during his State of the City speech in April 2018 as a new front in the fight against homelessness. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's 2018 homeless count found that more than 31,000 people are homeless in the city, including more than 23,000 living without shelter, which were both slight drops from the previous year after years of increases.

The bridge shelters are intended as a temporary solution to the problem while the city builds thousands of permanent supportive units approved in 2016 by city voters via Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure.

Garcetti and other leaders say the temporary shelters help transition homeless people off the street and into permanent housing, along with providing them access to supportive services, including addiction counseling.

"Bridge housing is an important first step in the process of moving our most vulnerable into permanent supportive housing and PATH is grateful for the continued partnership of Councilmember Bonin on this effort,'' said Jennifer Hark-Dietz, deputy CEO of PATH. "Venice Bridge Home is a sign of progress and it is of the utmost importance that elected officials, landlords, the nonprofit sector and neighborhood leaders continue to work together to find and build housing for those in need.''

Photo Credit: NBCLA/ Mike Bonin]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Encampment Cleanups: Are Millions of Tax Dollars Being Wasted?]]>Wed, 15 May 2019 09:51:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/homeless-encampment-may-13-2019.jpg

Nearly 15,000 homeless encampment cleanups were conducted last year in Los Angeles, a process that begins with officers clearing people from the area before sanitation workers remove trash and other items.

The cleanups cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but some residents who live near the encampments said they are usually repopulated soon after sanitation crews are done. It's a seemingly endless cycle that leads neighbors to ask whether there are better ways to spend that tax money.

A stretch of sidewalk tucked under the 405 Freeway in the shadow of the West Los Angeles skyline illustrates the reasons behind their frustration. At least once per week, the 40 people who call the area home are ordered out by police so city sanitation crews can get to work.

It takes hours to remove used needles, bottles of urine and piles of garbage, then powerwash the sidewalk. 

But just minutes after the crews leave, the homeless encampment is re-populated and the sidewalk is once again littered with the hazardous byproducts of life on the streets. 

"You’re wasting time, money, effort," said Dylan, who lives in the homeless encampment near the 405 Freeway and Venice Boulevard.

Neighbors agree.

"It’s not a good use of our tax dollars," said resident Roman Samiley.

When officers clear the encampment, the homeless individuals just mover farther into his neighborhood to wait out the cleanup, Samiley said. During the brief relocation, they leave behind garbage that is never picked up. 

And, it gets worse.

Some people walk from the encampment to urinate and defecate on residential streets. If the human waste is outside the yellow tape sanitation workers use to mark off their cleanup boundary, it's also left behind.

"It just pushes the trash into our streets," Samiley said. "Our streets are worse after these clean ups. If you come back the day afterwards, after a major cleaning, it looks the same or worse." 

Pepe Garcia, of the Los Angeles Department Of Sanitation, said the goal is to provide healthier conditions for people living on the streets and residents who live nearby. But that's not happening, according to residents near the West LA encampment and sites in the San Fernando Valley, Echo Park and Hollywood.

The I-Team obtained and analyzed records of all homeless encampment cleanups and found the city conducted nearly 15,000 of them in 2018. That costs taxpayers $31 million per year, just to pay the sanitation workers. Add another $4.7 million to pay for Los Angeles police officers assigned to protect sanitation crews.

No one at City Hall could tell NBC4 the cost of LA Department of Transportation officers used to control traffic around the encampments or the cost of outreach workers who hand out snacks.

"There's an absolute better way that the city could be spending all this money," said Becky Dennison, of Venice Community Housing.

Dennison and infectious disease doctor Jeffrey Klausner of UCLA have visited the 405 Freeway encampment. They said conditions there are a breeding ground for disease and taxpayer dollars could be better spent to place portable toilets at every large homeless encampment.

The city has added portable toilets at just 12 of LA's hundreds of homeless encampments.

"Going to the restroom was just a basic human need, and it does create a health crisis to not have a bathroom," Dennison said.

They also said more trash cans also would help. At the 405 Freeway site, there are two cans that are often overflowing with garbage.

Sanitation department officials told NBC4 that they will retrain workers, instructing them to clean up trash and human waste in neighborhoods around encampments and not just near the tents. They also said they're considering placing more trash cans at the locations.

Photo Credit: NBC4
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<![CDATA[Tainted Childhood Memories: Van Nuys Neighborhood Upset to See Old Toys R Us Vandalized]]>Mon, 06 May 2019 18:39:19 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/toys-r-us-van-nuys.JPG

Residents in Van Nuys are upset to see a Toys R Us that went out of business turn into an unsafe area for community members.

Juan Ambriz who grew up near Van Nuys remembers Toys R Us as a magical place when he was a child. Now Ambriz is disappointed that people continue to sneak onto the property, despite the boarded entrances and chain link fence.

"I feel like the city should put up something that would benefit the community,” Ambriz said.

Business owners in the area say they have found syringes and seen trucks dump trash on the property.

“I've called the police and they pretty much told me there's nothing they can do. They kick them out a couple times, but they keep coming back,” Frank Ahn, business owner said.

NBC4 contacted city councilwoman Nury Martinez’s office for a comment and via email said she is waiting for a report from the city’s department of building and safety to continue investigation the situation.

“Anything that may deal with drug use and vandalism cannot be tolerated,” Marinez said.

Photo Credit: KNBC TV]]>
<![CDATA[How Did LA Become Ground Zero for the Homeless Emergency?]]>Tue, 14 May 2019 10:26:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/How_Did_LA_Become_Ground_Zero_for_the_Homeless_Emergency.jpg

The images of human suffering are all over Los Angeles County. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday May 13, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[LA Father Says Even With Section 8, It's a Struggle to Find Housing]]>Mon, 06 May 2019 17:41:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/section-8-homeless-050619.PNG

A father says that even though he's approved for subsidized rent available through the Section 8 program, he and his 15-year-old have been looking for a place to stay for seven months, and the motivation for property renters just ins't there.

Los Angeles County is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. It's also experiencing a growing homeless population.

All those factors have led John Mayorga and his 15-year-old son to live in homeless shelters for the past four years.

"The cost of living, the cost of rent, the cost of having a child," Mayorga said. "Single parents understand what other single parents go through, and I'm not proud of being homeless. It's kind of embarrassing but I'm not the only one."

While subsidized rent is available through the Section 8 program, the demand far outweighs the supply. More than 37,000 families are on waiting lists for Section 8 housing. Moyarga and his 15-year-old have been looking for seven months.

"I get told no, or I get told we have a two-year waiting list, so like 2021, 2022 -- you're going to give me a call?" he said.

In an effort to reduce the wait time, LA County started the Homeless Incentive Program, which provides incentives for property owners, including up to one month's rent, to hold units open for homeless families and individuals.

"I wish everyone would have an equal chance," he said.

Giving his son a chance at a better life is Mayorga's goal. He says he tries to keep him positive and focused on school. Having a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has helped his son, but he admits it's tough not to be able to provide a permanent home.

"I try to motivate him, keep him in high spirits, keep him happy, give him good stories, but then my son is like, 'Yeah right, dad,'" he said.

Losing hope, Mayorga says, is not an option, as his housing search continues.

Since the Homeless Incentive Program started, more than 2,700 families have been helped but 37,000 remain on the waiting list.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Celebs and Street Artists Band Together to Help Homeless]]>Tue, 30 Apr 2019 18:43:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/100+pieces+2017+show+04-25-19.jpg

Famous musicians and street artists, like the illustrator behind the Obey giant, are donating art to a Los Angeles show that will benefit young homeless people in Los Angeles. 

Celebrity artists donating their works for the auction include Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd, Obey founder Shepard Fairey and Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh among others. Although there may be scheduling conflicts, 100 Pieces organizers said some of the artists will be at the show.

100 Pieces co-founders, Chris Buzzell, Melissa Ross, Amy Favat and Pete Favat are inviting guests for free drinks and to participate in the 100 Pieces art auction charity event at Steelhead Studio on 12901 W. Jefferson Blvd. from 7 to 10 p.m. May 9.

Organizers are expecting 800 to 1,000 people to come to the event. 

Pete said the event is an unconventional marketing attempt to get people involved in solving the homelessness issue through art without the guilt trip. The show's organizers are not aiming for a specific fundraising goal, but they will take as much as they can collect.

Although there are big names donating for the event, 100 Pieces is also accepting submissions from a variety of artists no matter the skill level. The charity event is accepting art pieces until May 1. In the past few weeks, art has been flown in from Israel, France and the Caribbean, Ross said.

"The feedback I get from artists from past events is that they can't believe their art is hanging next to someone's like Shepard Fairey for auction," Ross said.

The art featured in the show ranges from photographic stills to various styles of paintings. Those interested in donating art pieces for the show can drop off their creations at Steelhead Studio.

Andrew Legget, a photographer participating in this year's auction, said he has donated his works to previous 100 Pieces art charities for three years.

"It’s a really amazing feeling that someone is buying your artwork," Legget said. "But really, it’s the money that will go to help this organization that helps youth. I walk around Hollywood, Venice and downtown and see these kids. It’s terrible, but you can actually donate your art and all that money goes to keeping them safe.”

The number of homeless individuals nationwide has increased modestly in the past two years, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment report estimated that more than 129,000 people were homeless in California. Over 12,000 of those were young people.

The 100 Pieces art show is a major fundraising event for the Safe Place for Youth homeless center in Venice.

The center has distributed more than 22,000 meals and helped 120 homeless youth go to school and find a job, the center said. Since 100 Pieces began hosting art auctions in 2015, $200,000 has been raised in total to help fund the Safe Place for Youth shelter. 

The money gathered from auction can be spent in any way the homeless center deems fit without the limitations that come with grants, Pete's wife, Amy Favat, 100 Pieces co-founder and Safe Place for Youth volunteer, said.

Amy said the homeless center can use the money to keep the lights on and the water running in the building, if that's what is needed. 

The name "100 Pieces" stems from the group's early ambition to assemble 100 art pieces for their first show in 2015.

Photo Credit: 100 Pieces]]>
<![CDATA[Building Bridges: A New Housing Facility for the Homeless Opens in Westlake]]>Mon, 29 Apr 2019 16:41:46 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Casa+Azul.png

A newly opened bridge housing site in the Westlake section of Los Angeles is nicknamed "Casa Azul," or "The Blue House," after the home, now turned museum, of late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Gil Cedillo and other dignitaries were on hand Monday for a grand opening event at the 6,300-square-foot facility at 1920 W. Third St.

"Homelessness is the humanitarian crisis of our time, and the only way to end it is to bring our people indoors as quickly as we can," Garcetti said. "Casa Azul will provide badly-needed bridge housing for dozens of adults and families right now, and I applaud Councilmember Cedillo and our county partners for the hard work they invested in this A Bridge Home project."

Casa Azul is the first site to be opened in Cedillo's district as part of the Bridge Home program, which aims to open bridge housing facilities for the homeless in each district to help move more people off the streets and transition them into permanent supportive housing.

The facility will be managed by People Assisting The Homeless, which will provide case management services for 28 women and five families.

"Every human being, especially those that may be suffering disenfranchisement, deserve two things: dignity and respect. This space is the manifestation of me and my team's commitment to providing those two things to our constituents daily," Cedillo said.

Photo Credit: Cristian DeMarco]]>
<![CDATA[Homelessness Takes Center Stage in Los Angeles]]>Fri, 26 Apr 2019 00:16:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homelessness_Takes_Center_Stage_in_Los_Angeles.jpg

Homelessness is taking center stage in Los Angeles for the next days. Actors are volunteering to share the otherwise untold stories of people living on our streets. Beverly White reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[HomewardLA Stages Production Dealing With Homelessness]]>Fri, 26 Apr 2019 02:44:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/04-25-19-Homeless.JPG

For the next 10 days expect an explosion of live theater dealing with homelessness in Los Angeles. Every person without a home has a story and actors across Los Angeles are ready to share their personal statements, with dignity.

"My mom had me when she was 13. She became an addict. She would trade me for drugs."

They are monologues that make up HomewardLA, a group of 500 professional actors and 70 producers volunteering for 50 productions. Ticket sales will benefit The Midnight Mission on Skid Row.

LA native Martine McDonald, a first time director, says she couldn't resist.

"It sheds a light on direct needs people have, in terms of housing medical care family trauma and cycles. Violence. Addiction. They are working really hard to overcome. But I also think it's a conversation starter," she said.

The performer says street stories can transform audiences.

"We're all here together," said Mette Holt, an actor. "There is no one that should be lost. No one who should run off and don't take responsibility."

At The Midnight Mission, where some 300 people spend each night, there's plenty of gratitude for what HomewardLA is all about. There's also unrelenting need.

"The programs and resources that we have here help people regain self sufficiency, get off the streets, deal with substance use disorder problems," said Mike Arnold, the CEO of the Midnight Mission.

HomewardLA features Stacy Gadlin's story, now one year sober.

"I was homeless for six years," Gadlin said. "Court system put me in this program three years ago. I didn't stay. Left. But I came back on my own."

The director guides actors on behalf of our neighbors on the margins.

McDonald added: "I was internally shattered by how much struggle there is for blocks. But also, so inspired."

The rehearsal our camera captured takes the stage SUNDAY at 3 p.m. at The Loft Ensemble in Sherman Oaks.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Housing Brings Hope to Some, Concern for Others]]>Thu, 25 Apr 2019 20:32:23 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/homeless36.JPG

A Canoga Park building being renovated into a homeless housing project is bringing hope to some transients. Others are saying the housing project leaves unanswered questions. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Craigslist Ad Offering Tents for Rent With Wi-Fi and Solar Pop Up in Whittier]]>Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:58:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whittier-tents-rent-homeless.png

A man who set up tents for the homeless in Whittier complete with Wi-Fi said he was just trying to help, but the city said it's clear the tents were put up for profit after a Craigslist ad was marketing them for $400 a month. 

The manager of the tents, set up on the greenbelt next to busy Whittier Boulevard, said he is not moving them even though the state ordered he pack up by Thursday.

"In the morning, we open them up, and they can charge their phone. There's a place to sit down in there and get some water," Mark Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said his tents are providing a service to the homeless. He provides power via solar panels, and Wi-Fi. 

But the California Highway Patrol sees it as a safety issue, due to the proximity to fast-traveling traffic on the boulevard. 

CalTrans also owns the land, and jointly with the CHP ordered Gutierrez to remove them. The mayor of Whittier, Joe Vinatieri, and another council member expressed outrage on social media after discovering the ad.

Gutierrez however says the order to vacate isn't valid, and he claims he never put up the Craigslist ad, which has since been taken down. 

The city said it's clear the intent was to rent out the tents for profit, though Gutierrez denies this. 

"I think this is someone who was taking advantage of a situation for their own profit. My family and I provide some assistance to homeless in different ways, but we definitely do not do it for our own profit," said councilwoman Cathy Warner.

The city said it's working with the homeless people who've set up other tents next to Gutierrez's, and those will be relocated.

But the souped-up Wi-Fi and solar-powered tents have to be gone by Thursday, according to the state order.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[New Bill Would Let Homeless Community College Students Sleep in Cars Overnight]]>Mon, 08 Apr 2019 19:56:50 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/homeless-students-car-bill.jpg

College students experiencing what some would call the best formative years of their young lives are not immune to the growing homelessness problem.

A new bill in California would require community colleges to allow homeless students to sleep in their cars overnight.

The parking proposal, AB 302, is part of a larger movement to address a growing problem: the number of college students who are experiencing homelessness.

About 19% of California community college students surveyed reported experiencing homelessness within the past year, according to the Hope Center.

The survey interviewed nearly 40,000 students at 57 California community colleges, and found more than half felt insecure about their housing situations the previous year. 

Nearly 11% of Cal State University students said they experienced homelessness one or more times in the last 12 months, according to CSU's Basic Needs Initiative.

"A lot of people tend to use the word invisible. We’re invisible people on campus," Maritza Lopez said.

She's currently a student at UCLA, with a bright future. But it wasn’t that long ago she was homeless. She was attending Santa Monica College and living with nine other students at a shelter at a local church.

"I didn’t have to have to worry about where to sleep," she said. "It was the first time ever I was able to sit at a dinner table and talk about college." 

Pastor Eric Shafer at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church said he was the only one to say "yes" when UCLA students approached him about sheltering other college students experiencing homelessness.

"And we had the space so why wouldn’t we do this," he said. 

Shafer said homeless students can come in many forms, from single parent families, to gay teens whose parents threw them out, to undocumented students, to foreign students who ran out of money, and had no where to turn. 

"They couch surf, they sleep in the library, they shower in the gym, they sleep in their car," said Darci Niva of the Westside Coalition for Housing, Hunger and Health. "And more and more students are doing it."

Lopez’s shelter was co-ed, and students could only be there from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. They served meals, and had the support of fellow students. Those students are now fighting for more options to keep them under at least some type of shelter, whether that be housing or their own cars. 

"I think it's a grand idea and I hope it will be embraced by all the community colleges in California," Shafer said. 

It's unclear whether community colleges support the bill AB 302, which if passed would take effect in July 2020.

Heather Navarro contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Decry Homeless Encampments Near 101 Freeway]]>Tue, 11 Jun 2019 10:57:05 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Problems_Near_101_Freeway.jpg

The encampments near the 101 Freeway have gotten worse and have created problems for residents living near the freeway. John Cádiz Klemack has more on NBC4 News.]]>
<![CDATA[LA Can't Kick Its Homeless Off the Street Unless They've Got Beds for Them]]>Sat, 06 Apr 2019 03:44:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/streets-of-shame-resized.jpg

A federal court ruling affecting all western states including California says cities can no longer give tickets to homeless people for sitting or sleeping in public places unless the city provides enough alternative beds for the city's entire homeless population.

Matt and Sativa Peeples are living on the street in downtown Los Angeles. They say just Wednesday, a Los Angeles Police Department officer told them they couldn't set up their tent on a public sidewalk because it violates a city ordinance against public camping.

"She threatened us with a ticket. I said, 'where is an appropriate place to put up your tent?'" Peeples said.

The ACLU of Southern California agrees it's wrong to punish people for sleeping outside when there aren't enough beds indoors.

"What the ninth circuit court said is it's cruel and inhumane punishment, under the eighth amendment of the constitution, to enforce ordinances when people have nowhere else to go," Eve Garrow of the ACLU said.

The LA Homeless Services Authority said the city of LA only has enough shelter beds to house about one third of the city's more than 31,000 homeless people, and most of them are full every night.

But some taxpayers like Kristen Mayberry worry that if cities can't enforce homeless ordinances, encampments will continue to grow.

"The more you can't ticket them they're going to be everywhere. There should be an area for them," she said.

The ACLU hopes the new ruling will force cities to look to permanent affordable housing as a long-term solution, since they'll be forced to stop ticketing.

"This is now the law of the land and cities and municipalities have to change their practices. They have to prohibit enforcement of these ordinances until people have a reasonable, and accessible alternative to homelessness," Garrow said.

The LA City Attorney's office said they're reviewing the new court ruling to determine how best to enforce the ordinance going forward.

Photo Credit: Khallid Shabazz]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Encampment Shooting Rattles Mar Vista Residents]]>Tue, 02 Apr 2019 16:54:02 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/grover-venice-streetsofshame.PNG

A shooting that happened at a homeless encampment just a few feet from a day care center in a West Los Angeles neighborhood is rattling residents who are worried about the homelessness epidemic in Southern California. 

Residents of Mar Vista said the shooting captured on video Monday is just the latest example of the kind of crime they now put up with 24/7 because of a growing homeless encampment in their neighborhood.

They said they’re worried about one day being caught in the crossfire, and they can’t understand why the city of Los Angeles isn’t doing more to protect them.

Homeless encampments in LA have become an everyday sight, like the one on Venice Boulevard and the 405 Freeway.

In the video of a shooting at that encampment, a black car is seen pulling up. Someone inside points a gun and fires a shot at a homeless man standing in the encampment. A puff of smoke is seen before the car takes off.

"I don’t feel safe!" resident Roman Samiley said. 

Samiley and his family live just a few doors from the encampment where the shooting took place. 

"I do not know how to answer my kid when she says, 'Daddy, I do not feel safe here. I do not want to live here anymore,'" he said.

As the NBC4 I-Team interviewed Samiley, someone from the encampment passed out just across the street from his house. In the past year, there have been other shootings at the encampment, including one last July. 

When asked if residents think police are aware of the homelessness problem and violence, residents said they know police are aware.

"There is a big threat for our lives," George Frem said. 

Frem owns a high end auto repair shop right across the street from the growing encampment. He said his customers are afraid to come to his shop because of the constant crime.

"People are doing drugs and selling drugs outside and that’s kind of OK with the city, as long as it’s happening outside our business," Frem said. 

Even though LA has a law that forbids tents on sidewalks during the daytime, the LAPD doesn’t strictly enforce it.

That's a stark contrast to what is seen across the street in Culver City.

Just across the street from the Mar Vista encampment where the shooting occurred, there are usually no tents.

That’s because in Culver City, authorities don't tolerate tent cities. 

When a homeless man began to pitch his tent in Culver City as NBC4 covered this story, officers made him move it right away. 

Frem said he wishes he could move his business to just across the road. 

The LAPD says it’s investigating the encampment shooting. A captain said the victim appears to be a homeless person living at the encampment. They've assigning an additional officer to check out the area, because of all the drug activity.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[OC Handling of Homeless Comes Under Fire Again]]>Tue, 02 Apr 2019 03:21:22 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Fort_Lauderdale_Begins_Closing_Homeless_Encampment.jpg

A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit alleging south Orange County cities have done little to address homeless or obstructed efforts to solve the problem will also consider a newly filed lawsuit alleging the county is illegally using the cost of shelter as "in-kind" income against welfare otherwise available to the transients.

The lawsuit's filing on Monday came a day before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who has been overseeing multiple lawsuits by homeless supporters since last year, was set to consider a lawsuit against the county and several south county cities that seeks to stop them from enforcing anti-camping laws.

The lawsuit against the south county cities alleged they have done nothing to solve homeless or have stood in the way of solutions. The named cities involved in the lawsuit are Irvine, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano,

Dana Point and Aliso Viejo. But other south county cities could find themselves involved if they cannot provide proof they offer adequate shelter for transients.

Cities cannot enforce anti-camping laws unless they can prove they have enough shelter space available for the homeless.

Multiple cities in north Orange County such as Costa Mesa, Orange and Tustin, which faced the first wave of lawsuits stemming from efforts to clear out an encampment along the Santa Ana riverbed, have agreed to settle or are in the process of settling. Santa Ana volunteered to agree to terms before it was served.

In the most recent litigation filed against the county, the plaintiffs argue that the county is wrongly denying cash to transients from the General Relief assistance program. The program provides temporary cash for the needy when they fail to qualify for other federal or state programs.

The money from General Relief is to be paid back when the recipient receives Supplemental Security Income, a process that can take years, the attorneys argue in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit includes three residents who found shelter after the county began cooperating in the federal case before Carter.

The lawsuit alleges that the county has "again implemented policies and practices that deny and terminate aid to the most vulnerable populations based on improper grounds." They argue that in 2012 the county settled a class action lawsuit in how it administered the General Relief program from August 2010 to December 2012.

The settlement allowed for the repayment of the General Relief funds, but "only after the GR recipient met their basic support needs," the lawsuit alleges.

The homeless advocates allege in the lawsuit that the county has returned to "unlawful denials of GR, deterring applicants from filing appeals, constructively blocking the aid paid pending an appeal of the denial, issuing retroactively dated termination notices, and ensuring that the lengthy appeal hearing process leaves vulnerable individuals without benefits or other assistance for months before determinations are made."

The Orange County Social Service Agency, for example, "now counts subsidized housing of any type as 'in-kind income,' without limit," the lawsuit alleges.

"As a consequence, formerly homeless individuals are forced to choose between a roof over their head and food in their belly," the lawsuit alleges.

County officials were not immediately available to respond.

<![CDATA[Supportive Housing Development Opens in East Hollywood]]>Wed, 27 Mar 2019 03:45:14 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/186*120/01-22-2019+Homeless+Count.jpg

The first phase of a supportive housing development for individuals who previously experienced homelessness opened Tuesday in East Hollywood.

"Homelessness is the humanitarian crisis of our time, and we will only end it by building as much supportive housing as we can, as quickly as we can," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the grand opening of PATH Metro Villas. "We will overcome this challenge -- project by project, and door by door -- and days like this remind us what's possible when everyone works together."

The David T.C. Ho Family Building now open at 345 N. Westmoreland Ave. includes 33 studio apartments, 31 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom manager apartment, community rooms, counseling and case management offices, and a Veterans Connections Center for veteran services.

On-site services include case management, job training, kitchen, health and wellness programs, a bike share program and four full-time PATH staffers.

A second phase of construction expected to be completed in 2020 will expand the facility to 187 affordable housing units, plus a primary healthcare clinic and mental health clinic.

Funding for the development is a collaboration among private and public partners including the California Department of Housing & Community Development, Los Angeles Housing & Community Investment Department, Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, JP Morgan Chase Bank, California Community Reinvestment Corporation and Measure H funds.

"We are thrilled to welcome residents to this new community," said PATH CEO Joel John Roberts. "Today's event celebrates the start of a new journey for our residents, as well as the culmination of an incredible collaboration among many organizations. It's an honor to work with our partners, including Affirmed Housing and city officials, and I'm glad to be able to recognize them today for their commitment to ending homelessness."

<![CDATA[Garcetti, Other Mayors, Call for More State Money for Homelessness Program]]>Thu, 21 Mar 2019 04:20:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Crime_Involving_Homeless_Spikes.jpg

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and mayors from a dozen other major cities met with Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders in Sacramento Wednesday to call for more state resources in the 2019 budget for homelessness programs.

According to Garcetti's office, the mayors highlighted the success of the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, which allocated $500 million in 2018 for homelessness programs.

"Last year, California's mayors fought hard for hundreds of millions of state dollars to confront the humanitarian crisis on our streets -- and in Los Angeles, we have already committed that money to badly needed bridge housing and other emergency initiatives," Garcetti said. "But this is just the beginning. Cities need Sacramento to keep following Governor Newsom's example, and stepping up with the resources we need to end homelessness across California. We'll keep pushing toward that goal, with a spirit of partnership that's as strong as it's ever been."

California's homeless population grew to 134,278 in 2017, an increase of 16 percent from 2015. Garcetti's office noted that half of the country's homeless population is in California, and nearly half of California's homeless are in the state's 13 largest cities.

"Last year, the state laid the foundation to get thousands of people off the streets and into housing," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, chairman of the Big City Mayors coalition. "We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and Legislature to increase that historic investment so cities can fund to scale the programs and strategies that are most effective at addressing the urgent crisis of homelessness."

<![CDATA[LA Aims to Keep Homeless People and Their Pets Together]]>Wed, 13 Mar 2019 04:31:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/02-13-19-Homeless.JPG

Hoping to find homes for homeless people who have pets, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took the first step Tuesday in drawing up an ordinance that would require all county-funded housing to allow pets.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger co-authored the motion, citing estimates that nearly 10 percent of homeless people have pets.

"Studies show that individuals with pets experience fewer symptoms of depression and loneliness. Pets provide emotional stability and protection for those who lack that type of support," Solis said. "For many, a pet may be their only sense of family ... No one should have to sever a bond with a pet in order to find housing."

Many supportive housing developments either prohibit dogs and cats or don't have the infrastructure to care for pets.

"Devoted pet owners who are willing and able to care for their pet should not be forced to make the impossible decision between giving up their beloved pet or maintaining a place to live," said Susan Riggs, senior director of state legislation for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, West Region.

In Los Angeles County, housing concerns were cited by roughly 24 percent of residents who surrendered dogs and 20 percent of those who surrendered cats between 2016-18, according to Solis. She estimated that 29 percent of those pets were ultimately euthanized.

A draft ordinance is expected back in 90 days.

<![CDATA[Syringes, Pipes, Drugs Found in SF Valley Park Bathroom]]>Mon, 11 Mar 2019 18:56:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Warner-Park-drugs-3-11-19.JPG

Pipes, syringes, drugs and clothes are found in a park bathroom in Woodland Hills. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA[Homelessness, Teachers Strike Force LAPD to Break Overtime Budget]]>Mon, 11 Mar 2019 17:34:38 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lagenerics-lapd-body-cam.jpg

The Los Angeles Police Department has already exceeded its overtime budget this year by millions of dollars because of the teachers strike, issues related to homelessness, and special security details at transit stations and Rams games.

Overtime related to the strike topped 6,000 hours alone, which will cost about $500,000, according to an overtime budgeting summary presented to the LA City Council.

A security detail at LA's first "bridge housing" center for the homeless in downtown LA costs an average of $94,286 in police overtime each month, and the cost is expected to increase significantly when a second center opens in Hollywood.

Much of the remaining so-called over-expenditure will be reimbursed by LA County's Metro transit agency and the Rams, but the LAPD will need to borrow millions of dollars from the City's reserve funds in the interim, the summary said.

"We are trying to work more smartly, but at the same time we've had 57,000 more radio calls than last year," Chief Michel Moore told a council budget committee last week. He said special service requests from City Hall had contributed to the overtime increase, as officers were sometimes paid from the overtime account to backfill regular patrol assignments.

Moore said some of the increased call load was related to mental health or disturbance calls, and suggested the City consider how it might dispatch mental health experts, rather than officers.

"When you call 911, you have a police officer or firefighter but why do we not have a mental health professional," Moore asked. "When so much of the people in crisis that are calling truly need a mental health professional in a crisis situation, not a police officer."

Moore said use of police overtime had declined overall in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and said the use of more digital technology along with expanded civilian hiring promised to control costs in coming years. If the LAPD were to run out of cash to pay overtime officers could be compensated with time off, officials said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA City College Provides Students With Food Bank Each Week]]>Thu, 07 Mar 2019 20:19:55 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LA_City_College_Provides_Students_With_Food_Bank_Each_Week.jpg

Los Angeles City College Foundation set up a food bank to provide hundreds of students with fruits and vegetables each week. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[South OC Cities Sued to Provide More Homeless Shelter]]>Thu, 28 Feb 2019 23:07:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/santa+ana+riverbed+homeless+generic.jpg

Homeless advocates who sued Orange County to prevent enforcement of anti-camping ordinances have filed another federal lawsuit naming several south county cities that they say have done nothing to solve homelessness or have stood in the way of solutions.

The cities included in the latest lawsuit are Irvine, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and Aliso Viejo. But other south county cities such as Laguna Niguel, and even some north county cities such as Huntington Beach, could face exposure if they cannot provide proof of adequate shelter for transients, said plaintiffs' attorney Brooke Weitzman.

"In south county it's really glaring," Weitzman said of the lack of shelter space for transients. Laguna Beach was not named in the litigation because it has a shelter that came out of settlement of a prior lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter has been overseeing litigation that was initially filed to halt the county from breaking up an encampment on the Santa Ana riverbed in the Anaheim area, and later extended to clearing out the Civic Center area in downtown Santa Ana and other encampments in various cities. It's unclear if the most recent suit filed Wednesday night also will be assigned to him.

Carter has prodded north county cities to reach settlements so he does not have to issue restraining orders preventing the enforcement of the anti- camping ordinances, which could lead to years of expensive litigation.

Under current federal law, municipalities cannot enforce the anti-camping ordinances unless they can show they have enough shelter for the homeless in their jurisdiction. Settlements have been reached with the cities of Orange and Tustin so far. Santa Ana volunteered to join the case, so it was never sued.

"We continue to talk with Costa Mesa, Anaheim and the county" about settling, Weitzman said. The lawsuit says the cities are required by state law to zone for homeless shelters and then follow through, but in some cases have not provided the shelter.

In Irvine, the city zoned property near the Orange County Great Park and then resisted letting the county set up an emergency shelter there. Irvine Mayor Don Wagner, who is running for Orange County supervisor in next month's special election, said he hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit yet so he couldn't comment on it in detail.

"I would just say, though, I was thinking progress was being made," Wagner said. "I'm a little disappointed we're back into another round of litigation, but I'll know more after I read the lawsuit."

A representative of Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett said her office was consulting with the county counsel's office before crafting a response.

But Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, who pushed to include the south county cities in the litigation when he was chairman of the board last year, said the latest legal action "is simply a follow-thru on their stated intention" to do just that.

"Cities have land use authority over 90 percent of the county," Do said. "Homelessness is a regional issue that cannot be addressed without city involvement. Plaintiffs' counsel has indicated brining in additional cities into the lawsuit since summer last year."

The newest litigation details multiple issues related to providing shelter for the homeless in south county, including a lack of public transportation to north county shelters.

For instance, it can be a mile walk from train stations, which is especially difficult for the disabled, the lawsuit says. The shelter in Laguna Beach "is a very small shelter, with a capacity of 45 beds in trailers, open only at night," according to the lawsuit.

"Only 11 percent of the guests reported a last known address" in Laguna Beach, the lawsuit says."

Aliso Viejo topped the list of other Orange County cities with 28 individuals, totaling seven percent of the population at the (Laguna Beach shelter)." Mission Viejo had 13 guests, followed by San Clemente with 10, according to the complaint.

In other shelters, transients must participate in religious services such as at Salvation Army facilities, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also aims to prevent cities from developing property zoned for the homeless if it is not truly earmarked to shelter transients.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[OC Sheriff Reports 210 People Who Died in 2018 Were Homeless]]>Tue, 26 Feb 2019 06:24:18 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/09-07-2016-homeless-santa-ana.JPG

As part of an effort in federal court to reduce Orange County's homeless population, Orange County Sheriff's Department officials Monday released a report that 210 homeless people died last year.

Of those, 11 were classified as homicides, said Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who has been presiding over settlement negotiations between homeless activists and county and city officials, asked for an accounting of transient deaths.

From New Year's Day through Tuesday, 25 transients died.

Of the 210 who died last year, 75 died of natural causes, the most frequent cause of death. The next highest cause of death was drug overdoses with 44, with 32 cases still pending further drug tests.

"Examining this data allows us to observe causal factors that might assist in preventing the deaths of individuals experiencing homelessness," Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said. "As a member of the Commission to End Homelessness, I will be presenting this data to the commission for further discussion and action aimed at reducing the number of deaths of homeless individuals."

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[A Report Finds One-Third of LA County's Homeless Are Black]]>Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:26:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/streets+of+shame-2018-tents.jpg

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Monday a new report highlighting the elevated levels of homelessness among black Angelenos is a "critical first step" in addressing the disparities affecting the African-American community.

Black people make up 9 percent of the population of Los Angeles County, but more than one-third of its population is experiencing homelessness, which is consistent demographically across the country, according to a report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness.

Ridley-Thomas was among more than 100 county, city and community leaders gathered who gathered to discuss the report at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park.

"This report is a critical first step to address the collective failings of systems and institutions that -- de facto and de jure -- have been designed to deliver the painful disparities that affect so many of our brothers and sisters," Ridley-Thomas said. "Hard work lies ahead to counter this tragic inheritance. If our region is to prosper, it is not only a moral imperative, it is an absolute economic imperative that all who call Los Angeles home are able to attain their full measure of dignity and self-worth."

The report, which includes 67 recommendations, concludes that racism,discrimination and unconscious bias in public systems and institutions has contributed to homelessness.

"We have long understood the painful reality that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are caught in the grip of homelessness -- and we have to be more intentional about how to confront and end this crisis," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "This report puts the spotlight where it needs to be, and helps us focus efforts on the individuals, families, and communities that need the most help."

Among the recommendations is that the county should work to improve data collection, analysis and collaborative research to better understand and track issues affecting black people experiencing homelessness, and to advancracially equitable policies, programs and funding across institutions, homeless service providers, and city and county agencies.

"Homelessness is the greatest issue facing Los Angeles and racism is amplifying the impacts of economic inequality and housing access," Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said. "Now is the time to directly address the root causes of homelessness and racism remains one of the biggest causes."

The full report can be found here.

Photo Credit: Khallid Shabazz]]>
<![CDATA[OC Shelters Open 24 Hours for Homeless During Storm]]>Fri, 15 Feb 2019 22:36:03 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/shutterstock_582345919.jpg

Orange County shelters are providing extended hour services for homeless due to cold and rainy conditions in Southern California.

The Orange County Armory Emergency Shelter Program in coordination with Mercy House Living Centers in Santa Ana and Fullerton will be operating on 24-hour basis through Saturday morning.

The armories provide a total of up to 400 beds per night. The homeless will receive a nutritious meal, a warm shower and a safe place to sleep. The armories will return to regular operations starting Saturday evening from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

For more information visit www.ocgov.com

<![CDATA[Streets of Shame: Images of the Homelessness Crisis in SoCal]]>Wed, 06 Feb 2019 13:59:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/streets-of-shame-2019-16-cover.jpg

Photo Credit: Khallid Shabazz]]>
<![CDATA[More Pedestrians Getting Onto Freeways, CHP Says]]>Tue, 29 Jan 2019 22:12:24 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Pedestrians_Wondering_onto_Freeways_Doubled.jpg

"Everyday we get these calls." Officials say there is a rising trend in individuals climbing onto freeway signs and ramps. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Long Beach Reaches Agreement on Property Slated for Homeless Services]]>Tue, 29 Jan 2019 05:41:44 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Generic+Homeless+Generic+Shoe+Sleeping+Street.jpg

The city of Long Beach announced Monday that it has reached an acquisition agreement with the owner of a North Long Beach property slated for potential use as a campus of supportive services for homeless people, including a year-round shelter of 125 beds.

Acquisition of the property at 6841-6845 Atlantic Ave. still needs to be approved by the City Council. Last year, the panel approved a proposal introduced by City Councilman Rex Richardson to explore sites to secure a year-round homeless shelter and local revenue options for homeless initiatives.

"Homelessness and housing are the top two challenges we are facing in the state and as a city," Mayor Robert Garcia said. "I'd like to thank Councilmember Richardson and the North Long Beach community for stepping up on this citywide issue."

If the sale is approved by City Council, the city's Economic Development department will convene a visioning task force for the property to explore potential public-private partnerships, mixed-use development opportunities and other possible services for the site.

"This is truly a transcendent moment for Long Beach. By taking the lead and addressing the homelessness crisis head-on, we're not only demonstrating compassion for families, students, and veterans in need, but setting the stage for a transformational project here in North Long Beach," Richardson said. "This is a game-changing opportunity to create a 'best-in-class' campus that connects comprehensive health and wellness with economic development, housing opportunities, and new amenities for the whole community."

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Floating Homeless Encampment Cleaned Up in Venice]]>Fri, 25 Jan 2019 22:12:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Floating_Homeless_Encampment_Cleaned_Up_in_Venice.jpg

Officials showed up Friday to clean up a floating encampment caught on camera in the Venice canals. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Officials Investigating Wooden Raft Seen in Venice Canal]]>Wed, 23 Jan 2019 20:11:52 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-23-19-bargecrop.jpg

Authorities are investigating whether a floating wooden barge caught on camera floating in a Venice canal is creating a public hazard.

Rebecca Dannenbaum, 49, says she made the barge to store her clothes and generators which she uses to make money charging electric scooters and sleeps out of an RV.

But residents say she lives on the barge and have called police.

Los Angeles police Capt. Brian Morrison said officials will determine Thursday what will be done with it.

"Is it creating a public hazard? Is it blocking a thoroughfare or walkway? What is the impact to the community?" he said.

Dannenbaum said that the barge helps protect her things.

"We figured if we leave it up on the boat and push it into the middle it's less likely for people to raid it," she said.

But those who live in multi-million dollar homes along the canals say they're fed up with the growing homeless encampments.

"People that are sick or handicapped we need to help, but people who come to be lazy and want handouts and feel entitled - I don't want to encourage that," said Harris Jaffy.

Dannenbaum says she grew up in Venice and doesn't cause any trouble.

She says she docked the barge between two bridges to avoid bothering anyone.

"I'm not breaking into homes or stealing bicycles," she said. "I'm not condoning that activity. I'm making an honest living."

Built in the early 1900s, the canal system in a residential area of Venice was renovated in the 1990s. Part of the original system was paved over for roads, but the remainder was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s. 

Venice has one of Los Angeles' highest concentrations of homeless.

As part of the Venice Homeless Plan, the city is attempting to open voluntary storage programs to provide a place to keep belongings. Legislation has been introduced to expand storage services.

Photo Credit: Khallid Shabazz/NBC4]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Count in LA to Get Underway, But Organization Questions the Accuracy]]>Mon, 21 Jan 2019 18:58:15 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/homeless-la-count-012118.PNG

Monday and through Thursday, the city of Los Angeles will attempt, once again, to count the number of people experiencing homelessness.

The census is supposed to help better understand where social services would fit best around the city.

But after more than a decade of counting its homeless, some are still concerned the city isn't doing it right.

It's the LA Housing Services Authority that's behind the annual census. Over three nights, thousands of volunteers scatter across LA County seeking out those who live on the street.

"Then that's going to help us to bring in resources from the federal government to help our homeless neighbors find accurate shelters," said LHSA's Clementina Verjan.

Volunteers will get a 14-minute training lesson before heading out, learning what to look for and most importantly, who to look for.

"It's very, very strategic as to what it's showing you that's going to help guide you. A lot of volunteers are also outreach workers," Verjan said.

But some groups say the city's attempt at counting is flawed.

"It's a real problem. It would cost a fortune obviously to really count the homeless but I think they need to stop saying they're doing a legitimate count of the homeless," said Coalition to Preserve LA's Jill Stewart.

The Coalition to Preserve LA is an organization that makes a point to push the city's buttons when it feels it's doing a disservice to its residents.

"They're acting like there's no emergency and they're going to pay politically if they don't get their act together, that's just the way it is," Stewart said.

Stewart points to the $1.2 billion from measure HHH, which passed in 2016 but has yet to be part of any plan to end homelessness.

"The city has not built one single unit of homeless housing and we've put out probably 20 press releases about that. It's a scandal, it's outrageous and they need to get their act together," Stewart said.

But LAHSA says that focus is all wrong.

"They're concentrating on the building of housing, but you can't build your way out of this situation. There has to be other ways of doing it," Verjan said.

The city touts unique ways of finding shelters, including working with landlords to come up with affordable units.

"There are a lot of things happening. It's just that a lot of people are not aware of that," Verjan said.

But the concern for others is the accuracy of the count. They admit it's important to have a number, but they're not too sure there's any way to prove it.

"If we don't know how many homeless there are, we can't claim we're doing a better job with the homeless," Stewart said.

The city has about 8,000 volunteers registered but they need another one thousand to help.

Check out this link to sign up as a volunteer.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA['Suitcase Joe' Documents Skid Row]]>Fri, 11 Jan 2019 21:04:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Suitcase_Joe_Documents_Skid_Row.jpg

For years he's been telling the stories of the lost people of Skid Row. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Business Owners Say Violence Among Homeless is Spiking]]>Thu, 10 Jan 2019 22:06:09 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Business_Owners_Say_Violence_Among_Homeless_is_Spiking.jpg

Business owners in Venice are reporting an increase in confrontations involving the homeless and they're not sure what to do about it. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Man Starts Facebook Page to 'Stop Illegal Dumping in Venice Beach']]>Thu, 10 Jan 2019 20:05:52 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Illegal_Dumping_in_Venice.jpg

Some people in Venice say that neighbors who are trying to help the homeless are actually hurting them instead. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 4 on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Encampment Stretches About 1.5 Miles in San Fernando Valley]]>Thu, 27 Dec 2018 09:52:51 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NewsConference_LA_Mayor_on_Reducing_Homelessness.jpg

It was an email to NBC4 that led us to a homeless encampment some residents feel rivals Skid Row itself.

As part of our "Streets of Shame" series, NBC4 has been flooded with emails, phone calls, photos and videos of what people in Los Angeles say they live with every day. Their stories of the homeless crisis have been a focus for our series, their complaints about the city’s response has been a mission NBC4 is trying to get answers to. 

The latest concern for some in the San Fernando Valley is an encampment near the Sepulveda Basin. It sits along a riverbank just south of Burbank Boulevard and north of the 101 Freeway and from the 405 Freeway to Havyenhurst Avenue. It took NewsChopper4 Alpha to view it from above to grasp just how big it is down below. 

"I’m, like, I’m shocked right now," says a woman who didn’t want to be identified. She was walking near the start of the encampment just by the 405 Freeway with her husband and their little dog. "We can’t even walk our dog, like honestly, through the streets."

She said she was afraid of a confrontation with one of the countless people suffering from homelessness in the bushes.

Driving by on Burbank Boulevard, you may not immediately see it, but recent traffic when the area was down to one lane before the Christmas holiday left some drivers staring at what was beyond the brush.

People who live nearby and reached out to NBC4 say some tents are so big, they appear like warehouses. They say they’ve seen the people who live here – some in what they call "tree houses" and using titles among themselves like "mayor" and "governor" of the encampment. 

And while it's not illegal to be homeless in Los Angeles, some residents argue the City isn't doing enough to enforce health and safety codes and to push encampments like this out.

"I came here because it's quiet and lovely," says Deborah Smith, a recently new resident of Sherman Oaks who sent pictures of the RVs that line Riverside Drive where she lives.

"It's a safety factor now," she says. "It's dirt, it's filth, I’m seeing rodents that I've never seen and it's become unbearable."

Smith says she's seen the encampment near the basin and worries the amount of homeless people living there could lead to an increase in her area as well. 

LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez says the encampments in the Sepulveda Basin capture her exact frustrations.

In a statement to NBC4, she added this: "While service providers are out there almost daily, there are numerous homeless individuals who do not want the assistance at this time. At the same time, we have neighborhoods in parts of this city saying that while something needs to be done about homelessness, they don't want housing or service providers in their community."

"As a result, encampments concentrate in areas like this, and it's not fair. It's not fair for communities like Lake Balboa, or Van Nuys, or Sun Valley. And it's not fair for our kids or families to not feel safe or be able to enjoy the recreational and nature-based amenities of the Sepulveda Basin."

"This location, and others across the city, are targeted by the Unified Homeless Response Center for coordination of critical social and clean-up services."

Martinez said she was unavailable for on-camera comment and did not discuss the bigger concern for those who live around here – the documented rise in crime.

"The filth and the aggressiveness and the needles and the feces, that to me is a crime," Smith says. "And we’re not getting anywhere."

<![CDATA[Christmas on Skid Row Serves a Reminder That Homeless Problem Carrying into 2019]]>Mon, 24 Dec 2018 20:36:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Christmas_on_Skid_Row.jpg

Families living on Skid Row are getting a special Christmas meal, but some say that's not enough. John Cádiz Klemack reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[Shipping Containers Used as Homes for LA Housing Crisis]]>Thu, 20 Dec 2018 21:39:49 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Father_Moves_Into_New_Home_for_Holidays.jpg

They're already piling up at the ports.

That's the thought behind a local developer's plan to use old shipping containers as housing to help LA's homeless crisis and streets of shame.

Flyaway Homes announced in March 2017 that they'd purchased a duplex in South LA, got the plot rezoned by the city, and would be building a new nine-unit, 33-bed, three-story apartment complex for permanent supportive housing with the non-profit group, The People Concern.

Fast-forward to December 2018 and the complex is near capacity.

"It's pretty good, it's spacious," says John Kilgore, one of the newest tenants at 820 W. Colden Ave. "Never would've imagined walking in it would look like this."

Kilgore is a single dad to five. For three years, though, he was unable to be with his kids. He says medical issues and lack of work lead to losing his home.

He spent that time couch-surfing, his kids split up with relatives. But he says he never lost his faith in God and in himself that they'd be together again.

"They knew that I was trying my hardest," he says. "They didn't give up on me and I wasn't going to give up on my kids."

The People Concern contacted Kilgore and offered him the four-bedroom, one-bath, 800-square-foot home.

"When I got those keys, I think it was the happiest moment for all of us," Kilgore says. "Gave us a sense of being home, have something that we can call our own."

Flyaway Homes is the development arm of the People Concern. CEO Kevin Hirai says it took about 48 shipping containers to create the nine-unit building.

"There are a lot of people out there that need this type of housing opportunity," Hirai says. "And we feel if we can clear the pathway and show how it can be done differently to provide housing, that's our mission."

He says these modular homes can be built twice as fast and at half the cost of traditional developments. But perhaps the most important part of the plan is the idea that is to be permanent, supportive housing.

"We come from a housing first model," says licensed family therapist Heather Gibbs, with the People Concern. "So the primary needs need to be met which is a roof over your head, feeling safe, food, shelter, clothing. We want this to be a permanent solution, it's not transitional, it's not interim, it's definitely permanent."

The Colden Avenue project took under a year to build and with zero tax-payer money.

But Flyaway Homes says it hopes the City of LA recognizes what can be achieved with its pilot complex and that money from recent bond measures could be used for future plans.

"The HHH bond fund has recognized that there's room for innovation and room for a pilot project along the lines of what we're doing here," Hirai says. "And so there's a proposal out there now the mayor is considering to carve out 10 percent of that fund to make available for development in this type of product."

Flyaway Homes plans to break ground on its next development in South LA in January 2019.

<![CDATA[US Homeless Count Up Slightly, But Declines in Key Cities]]>Tue, 18 Dec 2018 02:21:42 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/SnapCrap+guy+slumped+over.png

A federal report released Monday provides a possible glimmer of hope for the homeless crisis that has gripped many cities up and down the West Coast.

The number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and San Diego, two epicenters of the homelessness crisis, fell this year, suggesting those cities' efforts to combat the problem could be starting to pay off.

In Los Angeles, the count fell by 3 percent after a sharp increase the year before. Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said that can be credited to results of six months of stepped-up homeless services after Los Angeles County voters raised taxes to help in 2017.

Later that year, Los Angeles city voters approved a bond issue to provide more affordable housing — a factor Lynn said will start showing up in future counts.

"We're also dealing with the countervailing pressure of housing markets that are pretty unforgiving," he said.

Cities in California, Oregon and Washington have driven an overall spike in the number of homeless people nationwide in recent years. This year's count continued that trend, showing 552,800 people without homes across the country, up by about 2,000 from 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's point-in-time tally. It was the second consecutive increase after seven straight years of declines.

The number of homeless referred to as unsheltered — those living in the streets, encampments or other open places — was more than 194,000 nationwide. That also was up from last year.

More than 37,000 of the unsheltered were in the Los Angeles area this year, down 2 percent from 2017.

San Diego, California's second most populous city, also saw a decline in both total homelessness and those on the streets. After a hepatitis A outbreak spread among the homeless population and killed 20 people in 2017, the city turned to industrial-sized tents to house hundreds of people. As the tents went up, officials also cited people camping on downtown streets. Encampments downtown cleared out quickly, but the number along the San Diego River doubled.

The city is considering a ballot measure to raise money for affordable housing in 2020.

Nationwide, the overall increase this year was driven by a 2 percent rise in the unsheltered homeless population — those living in vehicles, tents and on the streets — along with 4,000 people in emergency shelters after hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters, according to HUD. The numbers of homeless veterans and families continued their long-term declines.

At a time when rents are rising faster than wages — especially for lower-income people — an essentially stagnant count is a not a bad sign, said Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

"Given what's going on with rental housing, it's not exactly good news. But it means communities are pushing back against the headwinds," said Berg, who like other advocates urges caution about reading too much into one-year trends in the homeless count.

The homelessness data picture is incomplete because several West Coast areas with large populations, including San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and California's Orange County, did not conduct new counts of unsheltered homeless populations this year. Those places will do fresh surveys in early 2019.

Homelessness has exploded along with a soaring economy in several West Coast cities in recent years and has become a hot local political issue. From 2015 through last year, voters on the West Coast approved more than $8 billion in spending — most of it in tax increases — to address homelessness.

In Seattle, which has the nation's largest homeless population outside New York or Los Angeles, the count this year rose to more than 12,000 — more than half of them unsheltered. The number was less than 9,000 just four years ago, and the city has been wrestling with what to do about the problem.

The City Council in May passed a $48 million tax on businesses to raise money for affordable housing. But under pressure from Amazon, Starbucks and other companies, it repealed it the next month.

Another place in the West with a rising number was the Phoenix area, where the total count this year was nearly 6,300, up 12 percent from the previous year. About two-fifths of people without homes there are in shelters.

The region's status as the fastest-growing county in the U.S., with 200 people a day moving in, is a factor in the rising homeless number, said Anne Scott, a human services planner who coordinates the count for the Maricopa Association of Governments.

"Some of those folks are not as successful as they hoped to be," she said. "Housing prices are very high. Eviction rates are high. We see a lot of folks who are right on the edge who are slipping into homelessness."

New York also had a growing homeless population, with nearly 78,700 people counted — up by more than 2,000. But because of a robust shelter system there, fewer than 1 homeless person in 20 counted is living on the street. Still, like the cities on the West Coast, officials struggle with how to get homeless people permanent homes.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said on a conference call with reporters Monday that no one should be declaring victory over homelessness despite decreases in certain cities.

"We still have a long way to go even though there's been significant progress," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Residents Frustrated With Homeless Encampments]]>Mon, 17 Dec 2018 20:35:09 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Residents_Frustrated_With_Homeless_Encampments.jpg

A woman living in her van said homeless encampments cleared out by LAPD's Hope team were back the next day. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 5 Dec. 17, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[$32 Million Supportive Housing Complex Coming to Expo Park]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 00:10:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Fort_Lauderdale_Begins_Closing_Homeless_Encampment.jpg

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other leaders broke ground Friday on a supportive housing community in Exposition Park for homeless veterans and others without a residence.

"Everyone in our city deserves safe housing --- and we're going to keep accelerating our drive to get people off the streets and under a roof," Garcetti said. "We are starting a new chapter in Expo Park, and I'm proud that our community is coming together to provide homes, dignity, and a new start to Angelenos in desperate need."

The $32 million RISE Apartments at 4050 S. Figueroa St. are for people earning 30 to 50 percent of the area median income who are transitioning into a supportive housing community.

"This is another giant step in the city's effort to eliminate homelessness and ensure our most vulnerable people have a shot at living a life of dignity and respect," Councilman Curren Price said. "RISE Apartments offer hope, opportunities and new beginnings and the fortunate individuals that will one day call RISE their home can and will prosper. I wholeheartedly believe that permanent supportive housing is the answer, which is why to date I've authorized the construction of nearly 500 PSH units in the 9th District alone."

The complex will include 56 residential units fully furnished, a community room, a residential courtyard, roof terraces, bike storage, covered parking, onsite management and laundry facilities. The building also will provide three supportive services/case management offices.

"We are grateful to the men and women who have bravely served our country, and consider it our duty to ensure veterans have access to decent affordable housing and supportive services," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. "I salute RISE Apartments for helping veterans rise out of homelessness."

The complex is partially funded through $9.5 million in Proposition HHH funds, a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by Los Angeles voters in 2016, and other sources, including a preliminary reservation of four percent of low income housing tax credits in the amount of $917,604 annually over a 10-year period from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, which is paired with $16.2 million in tax exempt bonds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

<![CDATA[Homeless Man Arrested in Rock Attack]]>Thu, 13 Dec 2018 21:34:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Man_Arrested_in_Rock_Attack.jpg

A homeless man was arrested after a violent attack, throwing rocks at cars, people and even police. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[Safe Place to Sleep: Church Offers Secure Lot for People Sleeping in Cars]]>Wed, 12 Dec 2018 19:46:24 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/safe+rv+parking.jpg

Behind the United Methodist Church in North Hills, you wouldn't notice it was there. Organizers say they wanted it that way, so as to not be a burden to neighbors who live by.

The church has opened up its back parking lot to homeless Angelenos who live in their cars and RVs as a safe place to sleep for the night, while at the same time offering welfare services and job opportunities.

There is overnight security, rules that have to be followed like no outdoor cooking, no drinking alcohol, no drugs, and you have to have a referral to gain access. For those willing to accept it, there are free showers, meals, clothes and even a place to do your own laundry. But perhaps the most important aspect is the hope to move those living in their cars into temporary or permanent homes.

The LA Housing Authority estimates that 9,000 people are living in their cars around the city, most of them fairly new to being homeless. This program, modeled after an idea in Santa Barbara, aims to ease the burden and transition them back to normalcy.

"Angelenos who are unhoused and living in their vehicles are challenged by safety in the neighborhoods and community residents find challenges with people living in their vehicles near them," LA Housing Authority Executive Director Peter Lynn said. "Safe Parking meets those two needs by providing an opportunity for people to live in a safe location, secure, that has services, sanitary facilities and connects people to the housing resources and employment services to get moved on with their lives and into housing situations permanently."

The North Hills location started receiving people in October. Since then, organizers say 39 have signed up to park overnight, and nine have already transitioned into more permanent housing. The gate opens every night for one hour from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and those who stay cannot leave until 6 a.m. They have to be willing to have a background check and have their vehicles checked out for safety as well.

There are five Safe Parking lots in the city of LA with another four expected to open by year's end. Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city is looking for some of its own lots to use as well, including maintenance yards, and he hopes other churches and synagogues will offer their spaces too.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Orange County's Supervisor Lashes Out at LA Over Homelessness Policies]]>Thu, 06 Dec 2018 03:04:05 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/City_Council_Approves_141M_in_Homeless_Funding.jpg

Orange County Supervisor and District Attorney-elect Todd Spitzer sharply criticized Los Angeles city officials Wednesday, especially Mayor Eric Garcetti, saying it is reckless to allow the homeless to set campfires.

"The unimaginable horror faced by California residents and firefighters who watched a monstrous wall of flame obliterate an entire town is a tragedy that most of us will remember forever," Spitzer wrote in an opinion piece published in the Orange County Register. "In the end, it's the job of elected officials to set the highest standards of public safety so that we at least have a fighting chance in the future of controlling something like this."

Spitzer wrote that in the past three decades as a California Assembly member and an Orange County supervisor, he has been consumed with giving firefighters, police, and prosecutors the support they need to excel at their jobs despite budget cuts and rising crime.

"So it was with great concern and disbelief that I watched a recent news report detailing how Los Angeles city officials have condoned campfires by homeless individuals in the extremely dry, mountainous brush areas. The Los Angeles mayor said the vagrants could not be arrested because the city does not have "No Trespassing" signs posted in the area. Instead, he dispatched a team of counselors with no law enforcement authority to roust the homeless. This was met with limited success.

"It's unclear to me how many signs Mayor Eric Garcetti thinks he would need to cover the Santa Monica Mountains behind Bel Air and the Getty Museum. Apparently he is more concerned with creating bureaucracy than with the lives of citizens."

In Orange County, he added, "we do not allow the lives and well-being of our residents to be placed at risk by the homeless population. I led efforts with my Board colleagues to clear homeless encampments from three miles along the Santa Ana River and place the individuals in shelters."

In November, he wrote, two Los Angeles brush fires started in homeless encampments, including one that involved Griffith Park. "And who can forget the massive Skirball fire last year that burned down six Bel Air homes, which not surprisingly was caused by vagrants who were cooking a meal."

"It's logical to assume that the dense brush on the hillsides is an attractive place to build a campsite and create a makeshift galley for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To not vigorously enforce the area as a no-fire zone is just plain reckless."

Spitzer wrote that as district attorney, he will have "the authority to set an example for the rest of the state regarding a no-tolerance stance on homeless firebugs or any other type of homeless crime. Many of these individuals just need a lucky break to get on their feet and I will continue to help with this effort, as I have for the past eight years. However, I will not tolerate anyone who violates our laws and jeopardizes our community safety. I hope Los Angeles can follow this lead."

<![CDATA[Council Members Extend Temporary Policy on Living in Vehicles]]>Thu, 06 Dec 2018 01:12:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LAAP_857456278793.jpg

A law that regulates where people are allowed to live in their vehicles in Los Angeles is set to expire, but a City Council committee voted Wednesday to extend it by six months as officials work to improve the regulations.

It was illegal for decades to live in a vehicle in the city until a 2014 federal court ruling struck down the ban. The City Council then drafted a law that made it illegal to live in a vehicle in residential neighborhoods or near sensitive locations such as parks and schools.

The council voted in June to extend the law by six months, and officials said at the time they were looking for ways to improve it, but that action is set to expire in January, so the Homelessness and Poverty Committee scheduled the issue again, with two members of the committee recommending that it be extended again by six months.

The committee's chair, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, said details of a new policy are still being worked out.

"Lots of members have lots of additions they want to make, and a lot of those things are under consideration at this time, and we just weren't finished considering it and we had to do the extension," Harris-Dawson told City News Service.

The committee only had two of its four members present, which does not constitute a quorum, so the recommendation was not an official act of the committee but rather a "communication" to the council by Harris-Dawson and Councilman Mike Bonin.

Bonin, whose district includes Venice, where a large number of homeless people live, did not speak during the committee meeting about the extension, but six months ago he expressed frustration at the "essentially unenforceable" law while supporting its extension.

"This is just an incredibly frustrating and really stupid situation. It's through the looking glass. It's a policy designed by the Mad Hatter," Bonin said at the time.

Bonin said problems with the law include the difficulty for police to prove that someone is living in their vehicle. He also said vehicle dwelling should be preferable to sleeping on the sidewalk -- which is legal to do overnight.

The Homelessness and Poverty Committee ignored the pleas six months ago of some homeless advocates who asked the city to allow the law to expire because they believed it unnecessarily criminalizes homelessness, but no public speakers signed up to talk about the extension this time.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pacoima Politician Trying to Help Homeless Families]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 19:37:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Pacoima_Politican_Trying_to_Help_Homeless_Families.jpg

A newly elected politician in Pacoima is trying to change how to help homeless families. John Cádiz Klemack reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 27, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Should Be Protected by Hate Crimes Laws, LA Councilwoman Says]]>Tue, 27 Nov 2018 05:58:29 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/112618+homeless+person+downtown+fort+lauderdale.jpg

Following several serious or deadly attacks on homeless people this year, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday supporting any legislation that would add homeless people to the list of those protected by the state's hate crime law.

A homeless man and woman were attacked with battery acid while they slept in a Mission Hills park in October, and a man was arrested in September as the prime suspect in a series of beatings of primarily homeless people in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that left four dead and four others seriously injured.

The California Penal Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the perceived characteristics of the victim, according to the resolution, which was introduced by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.

"The current definition of hate crime does not include housing status, even though attacks against those experiencing homelessness are a persistent problem," the resolution states.

A 2015 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless found that California led the nation in attacks targeting people experiencing homelessness, a report from the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst noted.

The NCH report said the number of attacks against persons experiencing homelessness nationwide has increased over the years, even though crimes against the homeless are reported at lower rates than other crimes. It also said that since 1999, the number of fatal attacks on persons experiencing homelessness exceeds the combined number of deaths in hate crimes that targeted specific races, religions and sexual orientations.

Other states, including Maryland, Florida and Alaska, have broadened their definitions of hate crime to include protections based on housing status, the CLA report said, but that former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill in 2010 that would have added hate crime protections for homeless people.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Taxpayers Could Pay if Fire Ignites in Homeless Encampment]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 21:11:21 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/fire-eric-homeless-investigation.PNG

After last year's Skirball Fire in the Sepulveda Pass was ignited in a homeless encampment, some residents demanded the City do something to reduce the fire danger from the camp sites.

NBC4's I-Team has learned what the city has - and has not - done.

Millions of dollars at the taxpayers' expense could be the result of inaction due to civil liability, should a new brush fire be traced to one of the homeless encampments the city knows exists.

Firefighters have mapped-out the locations of many of these camps, and some residents said they're furious the city has not forced the campers to pack up and move out.

A fresh foot path can be seen winding up a hillside close to where the Skirball Fire started in a homeless camp.

"...There was an encampment. It appeared as if it had been there for some time. People were likely sleeping and cooking there," said Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott.

The fire burned for more than a day - chewing through 442 acres, destroying six homes and damaging a dozen others.

But for a variety of reasons, the city says it has not forced people camping to leave those same brush areas.

"With one flip of an ash, it could have started up again," a Bel Aire homeowner, forced to evacuate, said.

She was afraid to have her face shown or name used in our coverage.

She said she reported a homeless person smoking in the canyon behind her house a few days after the Skirball Fire.

"It seems to me that as we come into another fire season - that the exposure is still out there, and it's still something that's a huge concern coming into the fall," she said.

In the weeks after the Skirball fire, LA sent firefighters to map the locations of camps, and outreach workers were sent out, but the city has not enforced trespassing and other laws that could force the campers to leave.

Some of the camp sites mapped last January are still occupied, like this one along Laurel Canyon in Studio City. It's the city's knowledge of where the sites exist that legal experts say could lead to a huge bill for taxpayers.

"They know the danger exists, and they're not enforcing the laws," said Attorney Brian Kabateck.

Kabateck, who's also the president of the LA Bar Association, says the mere fact the city has a list of encampment sites could put taxpayers on the hook for the damages if another fire starts in a known camp site and burns homes.

"For the mayor simply to say, we're just going to know where they are, and track them and keep them, that just isn't enough, and it's going to end up leading to liability for the city," Kabateck said.

Mayor Garcetti said he's not worried about the legal liability.

"Look, I'd rather know where folks are, and on high fire risk days, we now have a policy to go out there and ask people to, to get out of those places," he said. "My mind is to make sure that we know where these areas are."

As NBC4's I-Team reported Wednesday, the Mayor's office says it's unable to enforce trespassing laws on some city owned properties, because not enough "no trespassing" signs have been installed.

The Mayor's office says it's working on a better solution, and says it knows residents in brush fire hazard zones are very worried.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Temporary Homeless Shelter for Women Coming to Hollywood]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 18:50:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/How_the_Court_of_Appeals_Ruling_on_Homeless_Impacts_SF.jpg

Ground was broken Thursday on a homeless bridge housing project for women in Hollywood, the latest in a large-scale effort by Los Angeles city leaders to install the temporary facilities in each City Council district to help ease the region's homeless crisis.

The former library at 1403 N. Gardner Street will provide 30 beds and services for homeless women and is expected to be completed by late summer next year.

“Today, we are turning a new page in the story of homelessness in
Hollywood and Council District Four,” City Councilman David Ryu said. “I am proud to work with the city, county and community on turning this former library into a home, and into a beacon hope for women facing homelessness.”

Ryu's office said the residents of the facility will work with case managers to transition into long-term housing, and that renovation work will primarily take place inside the building, with the original facade and exterior trees on the city-owned former library remaining in place.

“This project is something we're extremely proud to work on at the Bureau of Engineering, and it's just one of the many projects we are involved in that address homelessness across the city of Los Angeles," City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said. "We're looking forward to getting the project done and opening the doors to the residents next year.”

The facility will be part of Mayor Eric Garcetti's “A Bridge Home” program, which calls for temporary homeless facilities in each of the city's 15 council districts.

The Bridge Home program seeks to install shelters in the form of trailers, large tents or empty buildings with 24-hour security and on-site support workers who would offer services and attempt to transition people into permanent supportive housing or drug treatment programs.

Garcetti and the City Council have dedicated $20 million for the Bridge Home program in the current fiscal year, and Garcetti also said tens of millions more could be available now that the state has provide the city with $85 million in budget surplus money for homeless programs. The goal is to have at least one temporary facility in each of the 15 council districts.

<![CDATA[Fire Dangers and the Homeless: What Prevention is Being Done?]]>Thu, 15 Nov 2018 10:25:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/homeless-fire-danger-leonard.PNG

The red flag fire danger warning has now been lifted in the City of Los Angeles, but over the last few days while it was in effect, the City had promised to try to reduce the danger of new brush fires by sending outreach workers to homeless camps in wilderness areas.

NBC4's I-Team has been following the City's response to the homeless camp fire danger after the Skirball Fire last December. That fire started in a homeless camp and destroyed several homes. 

After the Skirball Fire in the Sepulveda Pass, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti had firefighters map out the locations of encampments in high fire danger zones -- like in the dry, brush-covered canyons in the Hollywood Hills next to hundreds of homes.

The Mayor said the plan was to visit the camps and encourage the people living there to move to shelters.

The City says it cannot force people living in the high fire danger zones to leave, even on days when the risk of a brush fire is most extreme.

City officials said a 30-acre fire in Griffith Park last Friday was traced to a homeless encampment and it nearly got out of control because so many of LA's firefighters and water-dropping helicopters were trying to stop the much larger, wind fueled brush fires in Ventura County.

By Sunday night, the city had declared its own Red Flag warning and special parking rules went into effect.

Then another fire started in a homeless encampment along Burbank Boulevard in the Sepulveda basin, and dozens of people ran from encampments in a creek bed. Another fire started Tuesday night in the Hansen Dam recreation area in Lake View Terrace, and firefighters say it too started in a homeless encampment.

Mayor Garcetti's plan as he described to NBC4 in August was to dispatch outreach workers from the LA Homeless Services Agency to check on camp sites, where many homeowners who live nearby have complained they can see people in camps, smoking, or lighting cooking and warming fires in the middle of the dry brush.

"...When we know that there are high risk days, just as we post fire warnings telling people to move their cars, those are appropriate days to take action, to prioritize and ask LAHSA to be able to go out to those places and engage and that's what our policy is now," he said at a news conference. 

Over the weekend, the LA Homeless Services Agency said it sent outreach workers to several known camp locations, including the Sepulveda Basin and Sepulveda Pass.

"A lot of the outreach teams have already worked the high severity zones," Matthew Tenchavez, who helps manage LAHSA's response to emergencies, said. He told NBC4 that eight to 10 people accepted shelter offers, the rest were offered face masks, water, and information about city resources.

"We're not law enforcement, so we can't get them to leave the encampments, but we do educate them, there's a fire going on, and we highly advise you to get out of those locations," he said. 

The LA City Fire Department says it sent extra brush fire patrols through the high fire danger zones. Firefighters looked for fires and reported the locations of homeless camps. But firefighters also do not have a role in enforcing laws, or trying to force the people in the camps to leave.

"We are very concerned, because, we found out sometimes in those homeless encampments people are cooking, they're providing themselves their own meals, but if those cooking fires should get out of hand, and get into the brush we have a bigger problem on our hands," said LAFD Deputy Chief Phillip Fligiel. 

City officials say people camping in state brush areas, or who are living on city-owned property, are violating the law. But the mayor's office says police can only force the campers to leave if the City spends the money to install hundreds of no trespassing signs.

Since that hasn't been done, an official says there can't be enforcement.

The mayor's office says the City is very aware of the risk and is trying to mitigate it within the law.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[In LA, You Can Spend $800,000 on This Tear-Down]]>Wed, 26 Sep 2018 18:47:11 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/million_dollar_teardown_for_web_1_1200x675_1329996355540.jpgThis house offers prime location, tons of junk, scorch marks on the walls and holes in the ceiling. Still, this Hollywood Hills tear-down just sold to a developer for close to $800,000.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Los Angeles' Response to Typhus Epidemic 'Too Slow']]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 21:05:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rats_Could_Be_Causing_Typhus_Outbreak.jpg

Los Angeles County's typhus epidemic continues to worsen, with 107 people now infected, while some are complaining the city is too slow to take action, including removing heaps of uncollected garbage that are breeding grounds for the disease.

"Nobody cares," says Fred Yasharpour, who owns Sana Fabric store in the section of downtown LA known as the Typhus Zone, where 12 people have been infected.

A week ago Yasharpour called and emailed the city to pick up "a mountain of trash" on a sidewalk on Crocker Street, but it's still there.

"They don't have enough resources," he told NBC4.

Just a month ago, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told the I-Team's Joel Grover "it's unacceptable" that the city hasn't responded to calls to clean up mounds of rat-infested trash "and as mayor I'm going to make sure that is changed."

Health experts say typhus is spread to humans from fleas, which harbor on rats that feed off trash piles. The city has accelerated efforts to power wash rat infested streets and remove trash from homeless encampments that attract rats.

But LA has been slower to fulfill a promise to fumigate for fleas and rats on the 23 blocks of the Typhus Zone. When the I-Team pressed the Department of Public Works for an update, they admitted that only 6 out of 23 blocks have been treated.

"They (the city of LA) have great ideas about the typhus outbreak, but nothing's getting done," says businessman Yasharpour.

<![CDATA[Homeless Shelter Overcrowding Raises Concerns]]>Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:06:39 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Homeless_Shelter_Overcrowding_Raises_Concerns.jpg

One homeless provider is raising concerns about a spike in homeless in downtown Los Angeles. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[LAPD Cops Face New Threat: Fleas, Rats, and Typhus Disease]]>Tue, 06 Nov 2018 04:30:17 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/11-05-18-Typhus.jpg

LAPD cops stationed near downtown LA's Skid Row now work in fear of becoming the newest victims of the county's growing typhus epidemic, officers tell the NBC4 I-Team.

The LAPD confirms to the NBC4 I-Team there may be "a flea and rodent problem" inside the Central Station near Skid Row, home base for over 350 officers. This past Friday, the LAPD closed down the station to fumigate for fleas that could carry typhus. The station has been fumigated repeatedly since August but officers say the flea problem remains.

"They're in the desk drawers, on the floor, they're in the patrol cars," an LAPD cop, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told the I-Team. "In one case, the employee looked down at his pants and noticed it was covered with at least fifteen fleas," the cop added.

Another LAPD employee filed a complaint with CAL OSHA over the flea problem, according to documents obtained by the I-Team. Fleas that live on rodents can spread the typhus bacteria to humans, says the LA County Department of Public Health.

Some 109 people have now been infected with typhus in LA County in 2018, a record number of cases. It's a disease associated with unsanitary conditions, that can cause severe headaches, high fever, and rashes.

Cops tell the I-Team they've been getting sick from the multiple fumigations at Central Station, which they say have been done in areas with poor ventilation. The insecticide used, Dinotefuran, comes with a warning to "ensure adequate ventilation."

"Many of us are suffering from respiratory issues, watery eyes, headaches," because of the fumigation, an LAPD cop told the I-Team.

An email to the I-Team from LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the department uses a "licensed and bonded firm to do that work.... they informed us that all of the work was done in a safe manner.

The health of our people is paramount and we take every concern regarding working conditions seriously."

<![CDATA[Disturbing Incidents Reported at LA City Libraries ]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 06:30:08 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/171218-library-problems1.jpg

Warning: Footage may be disturbing to viewers.

The NBC4 I-Team has uncovered hundreds of disturbing incidents reported at Los Angeles city libraries, many that put the safety of employees and the public at risk.

Since 2016, the LA City Library has recorded close to 2000 security incidents, including assaults on employees and visitors, death threats, theft, drug use, lewd behavior and vandalism.

The I-Team discovered the incidents while reviewing thousands of pages of internal LA Library documents, obtained through public records requests.

Among the documents we obtained were a list of people banned from entering any LA City library for inappropriate or dangerous behaviors, including "hitting patrons with a metal pipe," "masturbating and spreading bodily fluids on several library computers," and "unwanted touching of a teenage female." The city has sent letters to 490 such people in the last three years, telling them their privilege to enter any library was "suspended."

The City Attorney's office has also granted dozens of temporary restraining orders against people who've assaulted or threatened library staff members, all obtained by the I-Team. In one case, a person brandished a one-foot machete at a librarian.

Several others were banned from libraries for exposing themselves in front of children.

Surveillance footage obtained by the I-Team shows a man entering the lobby of the Venice library branch on June 27, 2015, dropping his pants, and exposing his genitals to staff and visitors. The footage shows the man running around the room as children weep and cover their eyes. The staff chases him out and locks the front door, but the man refuses to leave, pressing his naked body against the glass door as library volunteers struggle to block the view from the people inside. Court documents indicate the man was later prosecuted for lewd conduct, then ordered to receive mental health treatment.

On Sept. 9 of this year, a surveillance camera recorded another man stripping naked in the lobby of the Jefferson branch, then pursuing a staff member who barricaded herself in a back room until police arrived to detain him. Fearing for her safety, the employee later obtained a temporary restraining order to keep the man out of the library.

"[We] have been punched in the face…threatened with physical harm and with death," said one veteran librarian who asked to have their identity concealed, concerned that speaking out about dangerous people at libraries could have negative professional consequences. "There are a lot of mentally unstable people who come into the library, and you don’t know what they’re going to do."

City officials admit that LA’s libraries have become a magnet for the homeless and the mentally ill, seeking refuge from life on the streets, in a town that lacks sufficient mental health services and housing for transients.

Steve Albrecht is a former law enforcement officer who now advises libraries around the country about security and safety issues, including ways to deal with the mentally ill population. He says another danger is what appears to be rampant drug use in and around libraries, something the I-Team has documented extensively.

"People [who] smoke drugs and come inside the library do pose a safety problem because their behavior is erratic," said Albrecht. "It's dangerous for staff and dangerous for the patrons."

The library has now installed hidden panic buttons in all 73 branches, so employees can summon police without having to pick up the phone. But with security guards or police officers are only assigned to just 29 of 73 branches. Numerous librarians tell NBC4 there should be guards at every branch.

"The truth needs to be out there," said the veteran librarian. "We need better security coverage in the libraries."

City Librarian John Szabo agrees that security is a major issue for the LA Public Library system, which is the nation’s largest.  "[The libraries] are absolutely not as safe as I’d like them to be," Szabo told the I-Team.

The library's current security budget is $5,420,337. A spokeswoman tells the I-Team the library has requested an additional $927,495 for security in the next budget year, but says the Los Angeles Police Department "ultimately decides how best to spend resources and deploy staff."

For more than a month, the I-Team has been asking Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss the dangers at L.A. libraries, since he appoints the people who oversee the system. First, a spokesman said the mayor was too busy; in recent days, the office has not responded to repeated I-Team emails and calls.

<![CDATA[Crime Down from LA Libraries But Not Gone]]>Sat, 17 Feb 2018 01:37:00 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Crime_Down_from_LA_Libraries_But_Not_Gone.jpg

The NBC4 I-Team followed up with Los Angeles public libraries and officials to see if they are keeping their promise to better safety after an investigation released shocking details. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.]]>
<![CDATA[Neighborhoods at Risk Due to Fire Threat From Homeless Encampments]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 09:46:19 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafd-homeless-encampment-fires-051518.PNG

Incidents of fires erupting in homeless encampments in the Los Angeles area have risen sharply, creating a growing fire danger that puts homes, dry hillsides and entire neighborhoods at risk.

According to Los Angeles Fire Department data analyzed by the NBC4 I-Team, 799 fires were linked to homeless encampments in 2017, including tents and empty buildings; that’s an average of more than two fires a day. Five years earlier, In 2013, the number of such fires was just 104.

"Frequently it’s a cooking fire or a warming fire that we respond to, whether that’s in a brush area or in an urban area," said LA Fire Department spokesman Captain Erik Scott.

I-Team cameras documented dozens of grills and outdoor propane stoves being used at encampments across the Los Angeles area. According to the LA Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, 31 tent fires broke out in the Skid Row area alone in 2017, some igniting adjacent buildings.

"To have an open flame inside a tent or to start a fire inside of a vacant building is illegal. It's against building and fire codes," Capt. Scott said.

Lighting an open cooking flame on a sidewalk also constitute fire code violations, but a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman told the I-Team that LAPD officers "aren’t enforcing" the codes.

Nearly 43,000 homeless and unsheltered people are living on the streets and in the canyons of LA County.

And the fire danger goes far beyond Skid Row.

"The most significant fire [recently] was the Skirball Fire in December," Scott said. "That spread over 400 acres, destroyed 6 homes and damaged 12 others."

After determining that the Skirball Fire originated in a homeless encampment, the LA Fire Department established a task force to survey and ultimately attempt to remove encampments from high-risk fire areas like the Hollywood Hills. The department told the I-Team most of the encampments originally identified have disappeared, but it’s possible they simply relocated.

Captain Scott says firefighters continue to search for encampments in high-risk areas.

"We’ve seen firsthand the devastating consequences of a tent fire burning out, and the burns and the injuries," Scott said. "There’s a real concern there."

Photo Credit: LAFD]]>
<![CDATA[LA's Homeless Get More Help in Wake of I-Team Reports on Libraries]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 13:38:01 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/7-3-2018-homeless-library.jpg

The city of LA has stepped up its efforts to provide housing and counseling to the homeless population that congregates at LA's public libraries.

As the NBC4 I-Team has reported in recent months, the homeless and untreated mentally ill gravitate to libraries to seek safe refuge from life on the streets, often driving away longtime patrons.

"This is an issue I care about deeply, not only as mayor but as a parent," Mayor Eric Garcetti told the NBC4 I-Team, while discussing new outreach efforts at libraries.

In response to NBC4's ongoing investigation, the mayor's office has outlined for the I-Team a four-point plan to help the homeless and to restore a safe environment to libraries. Among the measures now being implemented, the LAPD is sending its Mental Health Evaluation Unit (MEU) to libraries to link the mentally ill with much needed counseling services. 

Some branches of the LA Public Library are also expanding their "Source" program, which holds monthly events at neighborhood branches to link the homeless with various social services, including emergency housing programs, drug and mental health treatment, and emergency relief. At Durant Library this past week, a record number of people lined up for hours to attend the Source event.

Head Librarian John Frank says his branch got an infusion of public money to expand this event, after the I-Team's reports.

"The reports raised awareness of the plight of the different populations in the library, and they’ve inspired some people to help us out and give us a little more money," said Frank. "It's made a big difference."

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[LA Vows to Clean Filth From More City Streets]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 12:26:35 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rats_Could_Be_Causing_Typhus_Outbreak.jpg

Los Angeles city work crews were out in force Wednesday morning near downtown LA, as part of a new effort to remove trash and filth from more streets.

The effort is part of the city’s attempt to stem an outbreak of typhus, a bacterial disease that has infected at least nine people in the downtown area. Typhus causes high fever, rashes, and stomach pain. 

The action comes in the wake of an NBC4 I-Team investigation that documented how trash, infested with rats and flies, has been piling up since at least May and the city hadn't removed it.

On the orders of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who allocated an extra $300,000 for the clean up effort, Sanitation Department crews will now regularly remove trash and feces and then power wash the entire area the city now calls "The Typhus Zone."

The Zone spans from 3rd Street to 7th Street and Spring Street to Alameda Street, an area which includes not just homeless encampments but pricey new residential and commercial buildings.

"Every area around here, that will be in the Typhus Zone, will be cleaned up every four weeks," said Enrique Saldivar, who heads up LA's Bureau of Sanitation.

But people who live and work in the area say the expanded street sanitizing effort doesn't go far enough. There are many trash strewn streets that are just outside the clean up boundary, like Ceres Avenue in the Produce District. 

"This is a city thoroughfare and it's the city's responsibility to clean it up," said Estela Lopez, executive director of the LA Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District.

Because of the I-Team's report, the Bureau of Sanitation now says it will clean out mountains of trash from Ceres Avenue on Friday.

As for the streets that are being regularly sanitized, Sanitation Department crews aren't removing all the filth. On one street, the I-Team noticed a dead rat and a pile of feces left behind after crews supposedly cleaned that block.

"If this is called street cleaning somebody's not doing their job," said Darwin Spears, who told NBC4 he lives in a tent on San Pedro Avenue and witnessed that street being cleaned today. 

"They don't do a good job," he said, pointing to a pile of feces still on the street after crews had power washed it. "That s--- has been there for about three or four days," said Spears.

<![CDATA[Man Known as the 'Vanlord' Rents Vans to Homeless]]>Tue, 09 Jul 2019 18:25:49 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Man_Known_as_the___Van_Lord__Rents_Vans_to_Homeless.jpg

A man is renting more than a dozen vans to homeless people and residents are fed up with it, saying the vans are taking up space and most of them leave large amounts of trash after they move. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.