St. Paul's Commons Episcopal Diocese church Echo Park  2-27-2020 7-25-09 PM.JPG

Echo Park -- The headquarters of the Episcopal diocese across from Echo Park Lake could serve as a temporary 30-bed homeless shelter as early as this month under a proposal by City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell.

O'Farrell introduced the motion late last week as part of a series of proposals dealing with homelessness in the area, including a previous request that the city set up an emergency shelter in Echo Park.  It also comes after several tense confrontations between authorities and members and supporters of a large encampment at the lake.

"As we address this urgent priority to find safe, temporary shelter and permanent housing, we are expanding on some immediate solutions in the Echo Park Lake area," said O'Farrell. "I look forward to our continued collaboration on short-term and long-term solutions to help people get back on their feet and live healthy, fulfilling lives.''

Under O'Farrell's motion, the city would contract with First to Serve, a nonprofit that works with the homeless, to start a 30-bed shelter for at least eight weeks at St. Paul's Commons, which includes the offices and conference center for the Episcopal diocese and St. Athanasius Church. The shelter at St. Paul's could start operating as soon as March 15, according to motion, which must be approved by the City Council.

First to Serve would then operate a 60-bed shelter in a yet-to-be identified location in the area for up to one year under an approximately $257,000 contract. 

In addition to the homeless shelter, O'Farrell's motion also provided more specifics about the funding for a storage facility for the homeless that would open up in city parking lot about a half block north of the lake. That would cost more than $300,000 to set up and operate.

Since late January, a group of homeless people has been asking O'Farrell to find a way to let them stay at Echo Park Lake overnight as long as they promise to keep the park clean and not be a nuisance to visitors.

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During a cleanup in January at the encampment at the northwest section of Echo Park Lake, homeless people and advocacy groups confronted park rangers and crew members. 

In late February, a homeless man was arrested after an altercation with a park ranger that was shared on social media in late February.

No one has been evicted from the park, but city officials have said maintenance at the encampment is necessary.

Homeless advocates protested O'Farrell's field office in February, when another scheduled cleanup was undertaken, by setting up tents just outside the office doors.

O'Farrell has already moved to dedicate more than $560,000 to fund six months of "emergency measures" regarding hygiene needs of the homeless at Echo Park Lake, which is located in his council district.

A safe parking site has been established for people to sleep in their cars overnight at Edendale Branch Library, a few blocks from Echo Park Lake.

According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, O'Farrell's Council District 13, which includes Echo Park, portions of Hollywood and Silver Lake, had more than 2,400 unsheltered homeless people in 2019.

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