Why it takes so long to clean up a homeless encampment

It took at least two months to remove a homeless encampment on an Echo Park stairway | Luke Hetherman

From Echo Park and Silver Lake to Highland Park and Hermon, many residents have complained about how long it can take for the city to clean up a homeless encampment, even when it’s blocking a public sidewalk or encroaching on parkland. After being hit with lawsuits and court orders, the city along with other government agencies needs to follow several steps to compassionately provide clean ups, according to a summary of the process issued by Council District 13.

Here is what needs to happen before a homeless encampment can be cleaned up:

  • The encampment is reported to the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) by a constituent or the council office.
  • The BSS assigns an investigator to the site, who gives a visual inspection.
  • The council office/BSS alerts the L.A. Homeless Services Authority.
  • LAHSA conducts outreach and offers services to the individual.
  • The owner of property receives a 72-hour Notification of Cleanup to ensure they have enough time to collect their belongings.
  • The BSS works with the Department of Sanitation to schedule a cleanup of the waste in the area. Cleaning an encampment requires specialized training, which may require a certified watershed protection worker.

The L.A. Times reports the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) received 60 percent more calls for street encampments in 2014 than in 2013. At a forum last month in Echo Park to address the growing homeless population, a representative from People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), which conducted an annual homeless count and is contracted by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office, notes that the region’s homeless population has gone down since the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008. However, he said the official number was about 30,000, but the actual number is most likely higher with people “hidden in cars” and “couch-surfing.”


  1. A consequence of development in DTLA encroaching on skid row, high living costs, stagnant minimum wage, a reliance on undocumented cheap labor from mexico. Also the mentally ill and drug addicted refusing help because well, they are mentally ill and drug addicted.

    • Development of downtown LA, and breaking up the insane concentration of homeless people living on skid row is a good thing… the rest of the region just needs to step up and shoulder more of the burden.

    • I’m all for freedom, but I think it’s time to let the pendulum swing the other way a bit for the mentally ill.
      The State should be able to keep them longer to try to help them with treatment – not indefinitely, but more than the 24 (72?) hours. Maybe two months.
      But also make sure there are places to treat them – not some prison. Sending the mentally ill to prison can only make things 1000 times worse for them….
      Then, if the remaining homeless person is a laborer down on his luck, or just a wino or junkie, or a hobo, I assume they won’t be building large clutter camps.

      • Agreed. It’s time to try again with state-run institutions. We can do it better. This gets the mentally ill off the street and into better standard of living for themselves, while allowing homeless resources to funnel to the short-term homeless and working homeless who really need it.

      • It’s worth a try because what is going on right now isn’t working. But we will be footing the bill weather they choose the get treatment/housing or not. No one can be forced into prolonged mental analysis for collecting a bunch of garbage. The choice is up to they despite their compromised state of mind. The red tape involved in this is out of hand

        • Them, not “they”

        • Agreed… I’m all for funding more programs that help the homeless, but nobody should be allowed to leave all their crap in the public right of way.

          I wonder why LA bums are such hoarders anyhow?

          • easy – the more stuff they have gathered the more stuff the police have to collect and put in storage.

            therefore: more stuff = bigger hassle for the police = less likely they will intervene

  2. friendly tuxedo cat

    Interesting post. Thanks for explaining the process.

  3. People it’s not gentrification.
    Anyone kicked out of a tenancy gets 1rst & last months rent + security deposit .
    It’s not getting moved out of DTNLA.
    Skid Row is worse than ever.
    It’s the 9th district court ruling google it along with the name Carol Sobel .
    It has tied the hands of LAPD by simply preventing them from moving hobo garbage .
    Venice has returned to being a dump after years of clean up.
    Your uber liberal mayor said he has no intention in challenging the ruling .
    Enjoy the filth .

    • You are totally correct but I do have to say that cheap, semi-temporary living in DTLA is gone. The Alexandria, Rosslyn, The Cecil are all going the way of luxury loft-like adaptive reuse. This puts all these people SOMEWHERE ELSE.

    • Silver Lake Resident

      Agreed. Look, the mentally ill need help. Those who have had a very bad turn of luck should be offered a way forward.

      But there are too many leeches, bums and bad characters amongst the homeless population for me to really feel much sympathy. Just the other day I encountered two able-bodied men wasted and drinking 40’s at the end of my street, surrounded by all of their junk. This is midday, mind-you.

      Seriously, I’m done. And if you want to read something that will really get your blood boiling: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ryavec-homeless-laws-sb-608-20150308-story.html

      It’s time L.A. does something. I’ve written Councilman O’Farrell’s office a number of times. Other people should as well. Here’s his website: http://www.cd13.com/

      Until we put our elected officials on notice that we want this mess cleaned up, nothing is going to happen. And shame on those who are bringing these lawsuits and forcing all of us tax-paying citizens to put up with the garbage and filth that the homeless leave in their wake.

      We shouldn’t accept this as the “new normal.”

  4. Where do Huizar and Molina stand on the issue of homeless encampments?

    • Joey Weezer doesn’t care. Look at how he has let the bums from the ALMA LODGE run wild up and down Colorado.
      Bums and billboards! thats what you get when you keep voting for that stiff.

    • Last night at the candidate forum Molina all but said, “Get the bums out of our neighborhood!” She had the same attitude about street vendors as well. Enforcement of law first, compassion not even on the table.

      • From my understanding of what Molina stated, “Enforce laws and provide social services to the homeless.” What’s wrong with that? Let’s see how many of you would like the homeless living in your backyard? How about your front yard? Ubrayj02 – what’s your address so I can direct them your way?

        It’s quite apparent that the non-profits have not been able to address the critical needs for medical, emotional, and social concerns faced by our homeless population in Los Angeles.
        Whatever is being done now is NOT working!

        And, I for one…. am not afraid to say, “I don’t want them in my front or backyard!” Our homeless population needs attention, services, and programs that are professionally managed to help them. It does not need non-profits that essentially work for staff inflating their own salaries to make an income they would NOT make if they were employed in the real-world! The reality is clean it up – the compassion is provide opportunities, support, and services!!!

  5. Some volunteers for the Homeless Count tell me that LAHSA may be gaming it in such a way as to suggest that resources be directed a certain way, and of course they are always crying for more money. HUD just gave them a record award in advance of the last Homeless Count. Why would you award BEFORE the most recent data? Anyway, I’m doing a piece on this now for a paper in the Foothills, and it’s very surprising to see how little LAHSA is concerned about volunteers co-opting their data, not even released yet, for their own purposes and in support of their own programs and agendas.

  6. bathing at baxter

    Venice boardwalk cleanup comes as L.A. considers strengthening law on seizing homeless people’s belongings http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-venice-cleanup-20150313-story.html

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