By CONNIE ACOSTA
SILVER LAKE — City officials and homeless agency workers came together last week during a town hall meeting at a Silver Lake church to talk about how they are dealing with neighborhood’s homeless.
More than 60 persons attended the meeting, sponsored by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, that covered the widespread homeless situation The discussion included the legalities and steps involved in clean up encampments and sleeping on the sidewalks as well as services provided to the homeless.
Council District 13, which represents most of Silver Lake, receives daily phone calls and emails “from residents who are frustrated and challenged by the fact there is an encampment right next to them,” said Field Deputy Mary Rodriguez.
Every Wednesday, officials from Council District 13, the LA Conservation Corps, LAPD, and People Assisting The Homeless work to offer shelter assistance to the homeless and clean up encampments in the Silver Lake area, Rodriguez said.
‘We get Alvarado, Silver Lake, Vendome, Hoover, and Virgil,” said Rodriguez of the Silver Lake area streets where the homeless are concentrated.
Bladimir Campos from the Department of Sanitation explained the protocol for cleanups.
“When Sanitation receives authorization … we post a 72-hour notice prior to cleanup to ensure persons have enough time to collect belongings,” Campos said. “The cleanup starts at 8:30 a.m.”
Gonzalo Barriga, also with the Department of Sanitation, said that workers from Watershed Protection are involved to pick up hazardous wastes for public safety.
“Sometimes we find explosives, guns, or unexpected things,” said Campos.
Rodriguez with Council District 13 said her office has asked the Bureau of Street Lighting to install high-intensity lights to discourage encampments in the underpass where Silver Lake Boulevard crosses below Sunset Boulevard.
But homeless encampments in freeway underpasses are more challenging. “Caltrans [state highway agency] has jurisdiction of freeway underpasses, and it’s hard to coordinate with them,” Rodriguez said.
Mike Ross, and Gabrielle Taylor, neighborhood prosecutors from the City Attorney’s Office, work along police and homeless agency workers as they offered medical assistance and shelter to street people.
“We’ve seen the problem first-hand; we’ve been to the locations,”
Ross said. “Eighty percent of our phone calls are about the homeless situation. It’s not against the law to be homeless. That said, [it] doesn’t give them carte blanche to commit crimes.”
In addition, law enforcement must deal with the predators who target homeless encampments, Taylor said.
“We are concerned about homeless safety in the encampments,” Taylor said. “Mike and I will eventually prosecute them [predators].”
Recently the City Council approved spending $1.7 million on providing an additional 1,300 shelter beds this winter. But despite these special funds and ongoing efforts, the panelists conceded that the homeless issue won’t go away anytime soon.
“We don’t have enough affordable housing, shelter beds, and supportive housing,” said Nicholas Greif with Council District 4. “Until those things happen encampments will be formed.”
Connie Acosta is a writer who resides in Echo Park