City cleans up Echo Park stairway encampment

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Echo Park — A crew of workers – some wearing protective suits and face masks – this morning began hauling away the pile of furniture, TVs, baby strollers and trash that had blocked part of a public stairway where a homeless man had set up an encampment for the past month.

The clean up began a few days after The Eastsider posted a story  on Monday about the large amount of items that  had been accumulating on a flight of steps on the Clinton Street Stairway across from Echo Park Lake. A spokesman for Councilman Mitch O’Farrell had said earlier that the man had refused to leave, delaying efforts to clear away the pile. Officials with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and mental health specialists had been expected to visit the site before the debris was hauled away.

A police officer and a vehicle from a private hazardous materials waste disposal company were on hand during the clean up.

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman

Photo by Luke Hetherman


  1. Any word on what happened to the homeless guy? Hope he gets the help he needs.

    • Very good thought. It seems most people around here would rather just roust the homeless and run them out of town or send them to jail.

      • Why don’t you guys open up your homes for this homeless man? Or offer him a ride to a homeless shelter?

        What if this encampment was on the sidewalk in front of your house, what would you do? Would your bleeding hearts flow as much? I’m sure all of you would call the police, right away!

        I’m sure the city handled this situation with care.

        • @David His encampment WAS in front of my house! Or at least just up Clinton Street from it. I passed him and his ever-expanding camp every day on the way to the park. His name is Todd. He looked intimidating but was soft-spoken and seemed kind. One time I gave him a couple of slices of pizza and he was grateful. He once lived up in the mountains, and hated the cold in the winter. I never got the chance to ask too much about his plans for the future, or his hoarding habit. Probably too complicated an issue to sort out over a friendly morning chat. But I figured while the city was bound to break up his camp in a matter of days (which became weeks, which became months), I might as well make him feel welcome. It’s not having a bleeding heart. It’s just treating someone the way I would want to be treated. Good morning, good evening, that sort of thing.

          He didn’t know that I (and many others) were contacting the city to arrange for him to be looked after or moved on. I wonder how he’d feel if he knew. Not disappointed I hope. Sorry, Todd.

          I never understand why these arguments come down to ‘if you care so much, why don’t you let him live in your home’. There has to be a middle ground – supporting a change in policy that will combine carrot and stick. Tougher laws on vagrants like Todd who are blocking public rights of way, and at the same time improved outreach, mental health care, addiction clinics, and affordable housing.

          But that’s at a council/city/state level. It needs resource, and a lot of people coming together. We can influence it, fund it, if necessary volunteer. In the meantime, on an individual level, a little compassion isn’t going to hurt, even for these ‘untouchables’ of society.

          • I was angry with my friend:
            I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
            I was angry with my foe:
            I told it not, my wrath did grow.

            And I watered it in fears,
            Night and morning with my tears;
            And I sunned it with smiles,
            And with soft deceitful wiles.

            And it grew both day and night,
            Till it bore an apple bright.
            And my foe beheld it shine.
            And he knew that it was mine,

            And into my garden stole
            When the night had veiled the pole;
            In the morning glad I see
            My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

          • There once was a guy named Todd,
            Who had habits most people found odd.
            He piled up his trash
            ‘Till a plan was hatched
            That some criticize while others will laud.

          • Good points, Wurstead! I hope Todd is doing well.

        • David, you’re wrong.In reality, I have given temporary shelter to varoius homeless people over the years, and helped them get on their feet. And I am well aware of other people who have done similarly.

          I also did have a homeless person set up camp a short way down the street from my home. And when I would take my morning walk each morning, I would stop and say hello — in fact, I complemented him for cleaning up the area around where he was — something the owner of the parking lot there neever did. He bothered no one, but of course, others must have complained about him being alive, and he was gone in about a month. And that area returned to being a messy dump.

          Some people treat people as if they are people; others treat them as if they are less than animals.

          Yes, I think the city probably did handle this with care, although no one is saying the guy has now been moved to housing, so he still might just show up in front of your home.. But too many people here are complaining that they did handle it with care..

    • the reporter stated LASHA and the department of mental health were called for help. this means the homeless person was offered a spot at a shelter or if he was in bad shape, a bed at the hospital. He would have had the choice to go or not. if he was in very bad shape, he may have been put on a hold.
      Of course, there is a chance the fellow was not there. he may have heard there was going to be a clean up and he took off.

      • There are no vacant spots at shelters to be offered. They turn away tons of people in need every single night. And, you have to stand in line for hours every single day in hope of getting in that night.

        The idea that shelter is available if they want it is misguided. Further, there is good reason not to go to the shelters, as plenty of these people have real problems and so you should have real concern about safety and not having your possessions (like shoes) stolen, even though it is monitored. The shelters are not pleasant. Many homeless people feel safer on the street than in the shelters.

        There are enough shelter beds to handle only maybe 3% of all the homeless people in LA!

  2. How much money is the city wasting on privately contracted clean up and hazmat crews?
    Doesn’t a simple trespassing law give the city power to move a vagrant? Guess what? No because Santa Monica attorney Carol Sobel (who lives in a 2 million dollar house)and the 9th district court allows the homeless to throw trash and feces on the streets. Is that compassion? Do people who live next to it have rights?
    Let’s all go live on her front stoop and see how she likes it .

    • Not trying to start anything, just an honest question – who should have cleaned up, then? Or do you mean this situation should have been prevented before it began?

    • Where is there any indication it was a private contractor rather than a city crew? Further, the city uses a lot of slave labor for such things as this — that is what the people sentenced to community service get sent to do. I don’t know that those people handled this, but the point is, until you have some idea that even the cost os a city crew was involved, why are you complaining?

      Power to move a vagrant? They DID move the man! Again, what are you complaining about.

      As for the Carol Sobel comment, gee, you again have zero idea what you are talking about. No one, not her or the Ninth Circuit, says the homeless can throw trash and feces on the street. In fact, the SETTLEMENT you are talking about pertains only to the Skid Row area in downtown,. But nonetheless, it specifically provides for daily cleanup of the area, the homeless must move their stuff out every single morning to make way for it.

      You’re comments are ignorant hate mongering.

      • Hey Susan, sweetheart. You’re a hating monger too. Slave labor is a terrible way to describe people who committed a crime and are paying their debt to society. It may have been fare evasion on the Red Line or other no violent type crimes. But, I’m glad people who are sentenced to community service actually do community services that help the community. Oh, with this potential haz-mat, there is NO WAY the city would subject itself to lawsuits. Most community services are picking up trash along the freeway. So stop spreading your stupid rumors!

        • The city would be subject to liability even if it used a subcontractor.

          Most community service is NOT along the freeways, although that is done too. People ordered to community service are used for this very kind of cleanup, especially in the alleys around Skid Row full of feces since the homeless people have nowhere else to go to use a bathroom.

          The LAPD uses people on community service for their fix-it program for people’s property (and when they are short of people, they run sting operations, often for prostitution, to get more people.). The parks department uses them for various labor in the parks. Public Works uses them to cleanup up roadways and alleys.

          This is all compulsory, free labor.

          There is a long list of what the city uses community service people for — and this cleanup is the type of thing they might be used for — although has stated, there is no information in the story to say who cleaned it up.

          • Any sort of citation to the police using people on community service to run prostitution sting operations? That sounds pretty unlikely for community service. Not saying it didn’t happen (this being the LAPD), but do you have an article or something to point to?

  3. He refused to leave? Who cares, throw him out and clean that mess up, it’s a serious health hazard. Same with the crackheads living along the 110 freeway. The homeless shouldn’t have more rights than everyone else

    • No one’s saying they should have MORE rights. Just EQUAL rights to those of people who are fortunate enough to live in houses. No one is a homeless crackhead by choice. When the city takes action it needs to have a full plan and resources in place to transition the man to another location, shelter, etc… it’s not just an easy part of a day’s work.

      Some commenters on this post and Monday’s seem to think that homeless people are as easily dealt with as a bag of garbage. Makes me ill.

      • “No one is a homeless crackhead by choice.”

        Um… wrong.

      • “No one is a homeless crackhead by choice” – Baby there were born this wayyyyy

        • No, but while addiction may have started with one bad choice, it quickly takes on a life of its own. Some individuals are more prone to addictions due to their biology and bad circumstances. I’m not saying that addicts bear no responsibility for their choices, just that other factors often are involved.

          In the meantime, those of us who aren’t addicts or homeless can choose compassion or hatred. There but for fortune…

          • I think most people fall into neither category, not hating them but not always compassionate with them either. If they act friendly and peaceful they will most likely get more compassion from the public, but not all can do this. A good number have severe mental illness which the government needs to address for the overall good of humanity!

  4. Excellent and time efficient work on the part of our amazing Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell now that that its all done maybe some calls to thank the council office!

  5. Though I have no connection to The Eastsider, I’d like to think their reporting led to this clean-up. Unfortunately, the city ordinance that let this situation drag on has not been changed, and it will play out again and again elsewhere.

    • Yes, I second that. The Eastsider article made things happen. We noticed the beginning of that encampment on a stairway on July 3. It is such a visible spot, viewed by thousands daily. For the city to let that languish for more than 4 months was neglectful to the common citizenry and the guy living there both.

  6. Echo Park resident

    Will they tackle the shanty town that’s popped up under the 101 freeway off Alvarado next?

    I honestly feel really bad about all the individuals who’ve set up home there, but it’s a health and public safety hazard. I’m always afraid a car will jump the curb and kill one of the sleeping individuals. We need better homeless services in Echo Park — a shelter, a community center, SOMETHING.

    • If you move them from there, perhaps they will end up on the sidewalk in front of your house — is that what you are advocating? Where better a place should they lay down to sleep than where they have chosen? I think those homeless have already shown good judgement in NOT instead choosing the sidewalk on your street or some other residential street. And the overpass provides them shelter from the winter rains.

      I will add, some years back, the homeless favored being more out of the way by instead choosing the land along the sides of the freeways, generally at the top and as much behind the bushes and out of sight as possible, although you could still generally see they were there. But people like you complained, so Caltrans ran them out and continues to do so if some come back — so they ended up on the city streets under the overpasses. Now you want to run them out of there — you are forcing them to go to your street.

      • “If you move them from there, perhaps they will end up on the sidewalk in front of your house — is that what you are advocating?” – No, this wasn’t at all what they were advocating. It wasn’t suggested, hinted at, or implied at any point in their comment.

        “Where better a place should they lay down to sleep than where they have chosen?” – Like somewhere not on a public sidewalk next to a road where, like EP resident said, a car won’t jump the curb and cause injury.

        “People like you complained…” = A model citizen

        • Tell me, where is that better place for them to go? All you say is, :not here. Gee, they are probably there after being run out of the last place because it was along a roadway, and the place before that because it is along a roadway, and the place before that because it is along the roadway, and the place before that … I know people who also will run them out of a park when they are not along a roadway.

          Where it is that you think they should go?

  7. Echo park born and raised

    These hipsters just want to take over echo park go back to Michigan. How is a homeless person a hazard? They are human just like us! And fyi not all homeless people are CRACKHEADS some just have mental health issues. And cant find the right care!! Hipsters get out of ECHO PARK.

    • Yeah, it’s only hipsters (whatever that means at this point) who would want to see a public stairway not made completley unusable by a homeless guy hoarding junk there indefinitely. Would the families and kids in the neighborhood might want to use that stairway to access to the park? Nah. Just hipsters.

      • You don’t seem to know that stairway. It has two stairway sides going up. He occupied only the one side, the south side, allowing full passage up and down the stairway via the north steps.

        And before you start complaining about fearing using the stairs because he is dangerous, no one has reported him doing anything dangerous nor even bothering anyone other than simply by his existence.

        • How about the health issues Susan? If workers in “protective suits” are needed to clean up the mess, it doesn’t sound like it was safe for either the homeless person who was there or anyone else. It’s very easy to unjustly imply others as uncaring (your previous comment”people like you”), for wanting to ensure that our parks and streets are kept clean and free of filth. I notice you like to blather on about the plight of the homeless but yet don’t offer much of a solution other than saying that they should be able to camp wherever the hell they want.

          • What health issues? Have you heard of any? Those suits are used simply because they don’t know and want to be prepared.

        • Susan, sweetheart, you miss the point again! The stairways has two openings and they are both public access! Using you example, a homeless person could set up a camp on the sidewalk in front of your house and block one way to your house, but as long as the driveway space was open, it would be fine?

          The city spends millions of dollars to clean up Echo Park Lake. It’s not a good sign that a homeless camp had been allowed to grow for about a month or so, and the city did nothing about it.

          How have you helped the homeless? Have you donated to shelters? Have you offered to buy food for the homeless? Do you give money to the homeless?

        • haha, this is hilarious. Since the homeless guy was so thoughtful as to only occupy, shit and fill up one side with trash, the city might as well let him stay there since hes not bothering anyone. An hipsters move back to Michigan? what the hell are you talking about? I was born and raised in LA and im tired of the homeless taking over.

    • You probably sound like the old white guys complaining about the Mexicans who were moving into the neighborhood some 50 years ago.

    • Did you build your house? Did your parents build your house? Do you/they even OWN your house?

      Sorry buddy, but these “Hipsters” are actual stakeholders… meaning they have a reason to care when there are quality of life issues. Echo Park may have become a dump because of lack of care/ownership over several decades on the part of your family and the others who moved in after White Flight, but that’s done now… and if you want to buy affordable property in a dump back in Michigan, i know just the city for you.

    • Beverly D'Angeleno

      “How is a homeless person a hazard?” Um…I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the people wearing the HAZARDOUS MATERIALS suits? Are you really that stupid or just ignorant?

    • @Echo Park Born And Raised: I’m a little confused by your “go back to Michigan” statement… Are all hipsters from Michigan? I recently moved from EP to Ann Arbor, MI for an advanced degree, and I don’t exactly get the impression that this state was the birthplace of the hipster….

      And FYI, not only are all homeless people not crackheads, but they also all don’t have mental health issues. That is an extreme generalization. Many a “homeless” person is just down on their luck, not of the result of mental illness, drugs, or alcohol, but maybe financial reasons. You may be surprised how quickly one can go from renting, or even owning, a home to being on the street. Food for thought.

      As well, your “Hipsters get out of Echo Park!” cry is, I am guessing, aimed at young affluent white people. If that is the case, please be aware that a person of any race or socioeconomic status can be a “hipster”. While I’m not inclined to engage with you in a debate regarding whether or not diversity in a neighborhood amongst different races, ethnicities, religions, generations, people of varying socioeconomic standing, etc., I can assure you that A) such diversity makes for healthy, safe, thriving communities (see: Jane Jacobs), and B) whatever problems you perceive Hipsters are apparently causing in your neighborhood, they are not the root cause. Not that I am comparing being a “hipster” to be any particular ethnicity, but I assume you would not want someone saying “Hispanics/Blacks/Gays/Jews get out of Echo Park!” Correct?

      • A. Joseph: Thank you! Someone finally gets it and speaks not only the truth but without offense and WOW, just pure good sense without adding insult to injury. You people, (Eastsider commenters) I swear, get on my last damn nerve.

        Resident since 94 and have never seen anything like this until now.

      • Not many but a minority are just down on their luck. If that was true then how come you never see any of these guys living under bridges trying to solicit work like you see the immigrants. It’s because most are either addicted or mentally ill. You are blind if you don’t see that. Nobody just down on their luck stays chronically homeless. You see the same guys on the same corners for years.

    • Waaaawwaaaaa waaawaaaa get out! Waaaawaaa do what I say wwwwwwaaaaa ….

      Ok, stop whining- EVERYONE GET OUT ! ………. they’re not listening? Now what?

      Get over it or get out yourself.

      • food for thought: a good chunk of the people who moved to Echo Park, did so because it was cheap. why was it cheap? because it was dirty, and had some problems like crime and homelessness. in essence, those problems are what allowed people to move here. if you want to live in echo park and have affordable rent: then you have a relationship with the people on the street that you rail against. if those problems were absent: rents would skyrocket and most of you wouldn’t be here to complain.

        these people for whatever reason are a part of the community and you have to think of them as fellow community members. for whatever reasons (circumstance, tragedy, poor decision making, drugs, inability to function etc,…) they are in the position of being homeless. it’s not illegal to be homeless, and the criminalization of it is unfathomable to me. these people need help and empathy. many people on this forum live paycheck to paycheck. that means you are closer than you think to being homeless. thankfully, most of you have better support systems in place: friends, family, connections. these people don’t have that. they take a hit and they don’t know how to get out of it. and then it gets worse and worse.

        then the people around them start judging and getting all upset about their existence. they know that people hate them, they’re not blind. objectifying them is one way that people can ignore the problem; “it’s not our system, it’s the individual.” once they hate them, they begin to deny them resources: “pull yourselves up by your boot straps.” “why should our tax money go to help them?” I often wonder why our tax money goes to things like developers, or bailing out failing businesses. why don’t those people pull themselves up by their bootstraps? why do i need to help them build another crap condo? I’d rather my cash help someone.

        • Perfectly stated!

        • What about the prop 63 money that was supposed to go towards mental health? What the hell are you talking about? Or now that prop 47 passed. We keep paying more in taxes and the problems get worsse. Enabling the homeless doesn’t improve their situation. Forced mental institutions,drug rehab, and jail is the solution. Not cardboard box and tent cities. The difference in the new residents in EP now is they actually give a shit where they live. People like you have no problem keeping this place a shit hole.

          • prop 47 will actually save money as we won’t be paying for people to go to prison over $5 worth of drugs. as for wanting to “keep this place a shithole,” you’re making a huge assumption. we actually have 2 houses here, and I imagine that some might consider us “gentrifiers” as we have only lived here about 15 years. I have kids and like to feel safe.

            My point is that we’re all involved in it whether we want to admit it or not. you, me, the homeless, the gang members, the guy throwing trash on the street, the drunk in front of the store. we are all a part of the ecosystem and things are the way they are because of that balance. if that balance changes, so will the neighborhood. many of the problems will start to dissipate, but when that happens: many of you will be priced out. If you’re renting in EP, don’t kid yourself: you will be next on the chopping block. once it turns into Los Feliz, there will be no room for you. someone with more money will be moving in and complaining about you and your kind.

            all i’m saying is that it can’t hurt to be nicer to people and that you may want to watch what you wish for.

  8. I wish the City would also get rid of all the tree-of-heaven that is seen growing at the left in the photo. They are a very aggressive invasive species that is taking over NELA and is ruining parts of Debs Park and the Arroyo Seco’s riparian habitat,

  9. I think most people care about the guy- everyone should have a safe place to sleep, and a way to live in health. . . it is all of the broken TV’s, toilet seats, etc that he was hoarding on public space that was the problem. Hording trash isn’t a basic human right- it’s a hobby at best.

    It seems like you would want to give up being a hoarder if you are homeless.. Focus on some more basic stuff.

  10. I hope there’s a staged reading of this thread in the future. You have all spoken, oh what theater you make.

  11. All of this makes me so sad. I don’t think Todd ever intended to get this much press or has any idea he has it. Nobody seems to give a fuck about where he ended up after this. I agree, his living situation was a bit out of control, but the man (human, you fucking animals) needed help. Anybody who actually spoke to him would agree. Sorry your neighborhood didn’t look as pretty as you wanted it to. Stop complaining and try and help.

  12. As DTLA and Skid Row gentrify, the homeless and mentally ill that live in those areas are being forced out. We are just seeing the first wave of what is to come. Echo Park has to be prepared to deal with this issue or it could overwhelm the neighborhood. Letting a mentally ill homeless person camp on a public staircase for over a month (and turn it into a bio-hazard dump) it totally unacceptable.

  13. Susan oh Susan , I hope you find piece or a least deal with your inner demons that make you fly off a topic and continue to go off spouting hate about opinions stated here.

    For starters remedial reading skills will unveil the truths you have seemed to overlook in your tyrannical rage.
    Here:* “employees from a private hazardous materials waste disposal company were on hand during the clean up.”
    *Taken from above article, “private” means a “contractor”.
    To continue when a District Court reaches a decision about case regarding a “law” and or “right” that decision becomes law in the district pertaining pending further litigation which would require a challenge to the decision and maybe a subsequent trip to the supreme court. The laws decided upon by a district court are to be the letter of law for that district not for just select areas like some fantastical boundary that magically applies to one area of one city, the only ignorance here is the one who is possessed with composing imaginary scenarios where a single female bring in homeless people to her house in pretend rehabilitation scenarios.
    Furthermore, the 9th district court ruling is the sole reason for the increase city wide. The city cannot remove anything , this means garbage , trash, clothes, broken tv’s all in the name of this ruling, I have sat in city meetings about this dear Susan so you might want to stay in the kiddie pool on this one.
    The reason why Echo park has seen in an upswing is solely because it is far safer than it used to be, no homeless person in their right mind would try and sleep anywhere in Echo Park prior to 2003 I was here, I know.

    To display the idiocy of this ruling the city decided recently they were going to fine people busted dumping garbage $1000.00. This is mostly to curtail the dumping of toilets and construction materials by shady contractors.. However, now with the 9th district court ruling if you simply sleep next to your dumped pile of trash the city cannot fine you , they must notify you that your “belongings” will be taken and held for you to review and take after the city has removed it. Ridiculous , I know however, this is the interpretation that can indeed be executed, thusly displaying the moronic lack of civic pride the city has.

    If a child grows up seeing garbage splayed out everyday you do not think that is going to install a sense of normalcy to the allowance of such ?
    Last point is I challenge you to find the areas of the city where the councilmen live and see how many camps are in those immediate areas. Bev Hills? Los Feliz? Brentwood? all LA City. Sobel’s Santa Monica?
    The compassion you hold for the homeless situation is commendable, but those of us that are civically active and make our voices heard are not allowing this city become a trash heap.

  14. One last thing , here is the 9th district court boundaries:
    Moronic of me , I presume.

  15. It’s a struggle to get the balance right on this issue, not hating them but not always compassionate with them either. If they act friendly and peaceful they will most likely get more compassion from the public, but not all can do this. A good number have severe mental illness which the government needs to address for the overall good of humanity!

    • Yes yes yes – on the severe mental illness which the government needs to address. Have any of you ever spoken with many of the homeless in LA? Far and wide, the chronically homeless here are more often mentally ill than anywhere else I have ever visited or lived. (there’s actual statistics out there somewhere, since I realize this is simply anecdotal) A large number of them are in need of treatment that they cannot access due to being unemployed, then they cannot gain employment because of their mental condition…. how are they supposed to break that cycle?
      Have you ever interacted with the homeless in Vancouver? The difference between the homeless there and the homeless in LA are night and day.

      I don’t mind paying more taxes to raise the overall standard of living. People say they don’t understand why they should be taxed to provide services for those in poverty, but those are the same who turn around and don’t want the homeless in their neighborhood. You can’t have it both ways. I understand people who say they want to keep their hard earned $$ for themselves and not have the government tax it and use it to provide for those who aren’t earning, but those people cannot also believe that all of those who aren’t earning (often because they can’t due to physical or mental illness) will just disappear?

  16. Michael that is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. I own a home and busted my ass to buy it. Because you don’t want to disrupt the “ecosystem” of the neighborhood the rest of us homeowners need to suffer?If your a renter maybe you should have learned some skills so you could have bought a house when prices were dirt cheap. whats wrong with landlords wanting to get top dollar for their rentals. People don’t buy rentals not to make money. I hope this area does turn into a Los Feliz. Maybe you like living amongst gang members,taggers and the homeless but many of us who grew up here are sick of it. And welcome the change for the better..

  17. About damn time!

  18. IT WAS A PLAY LAST YEAR AT THE FRINGE FEST. But most of you missed it.

    Yes, the theatre piece was entitled “Unmoderated,” and it was a show scripted upon the comments on this very site. Our blogmeister wrote and Rory Mitchell directed and I was in it as voice of the Eastsider, and it was very successful and full of laffs and the insight that comes from the unedited-here-I-yam comments we see here daily.

    Maybe it will come back someday, plenty of material.

  19. Glad he’s gone ! next on the agenda ” Hipsters “

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