Echo Park - There may be a lot of good reasons not to reopen the Echo Park Community Center as a homeless shelter.
But so far, the mayor’s office hasn’t given one.
The Echo Park Neighborhood Council is sending out a letter this week asking that the center be reopened as a shelter for the neighborhood’s homeless. The letter also expresses confusion over why the shelter was withdrawn to the homeless in the first place.
“Our letter is about asking all the involved offices for an explanation, besides asking for the reopening if there's no good reason for its closure,” said Genevieve Liang, stakeholder co-chair of the council’s Housing and Homeless Committee.
The recreation facility on Patton Street first opened as a homeless shelter on March 20, in the early weeks of the pandemic, according to the office of Councilmember Gil Cedillo, whose Council District 1 includes the center. Initially, it was to stay open for 90 days, according to the neighborhood council’s letter.
The Echo Park center was nonetheless closed as a shelter in mid-June. Cedillo’s spokesman Conrado TerrazasCross said this was a decision by the mayor’s office. By all accounts, there seem to be no plans to reopen it.
While the homeless have moved out, the Echo Park and other sites that served as temporary shelters have remained closed to the public during the pandemic.
The mayor’s office has not responded to questions on this issue from The Eastsider.
The Echo Park facility was one of more than two dozen recreation centers that were converted into temporary, emergency homeless shelters. At one point Mayor Eric Garcetti estimated that the centers combined could house up to 6,000 people. But the centers never housed more than 1,000 people total and the city without much fanfare began shutting them down this past summer, the L.A. Times reported in August.
By May, the temporary shelters stopped accepting new residents and by August only 6 were left open, said The Times. A Garcetti spokesman told The Times that that consolidating the sites would make it easier for organizations to provide needed services.
While the shelters were intended to be only temporary, Echo Park council members say there is sufficient needs to keep one open in the neighborhood where homeless encampments are a common sight.
The neighborhood council's letter notes that Echo Park’s total unsheltered population rose 61% between 2019 to 2020.
“The fact that our entire County slipped into a worse COVID-19 public health situation in mid-May should have signaled that an extension of shelter operations was necessary,” said the neighborhood council letter, which was addressed to Mayor Eric Garcetti and other key administrators and City Council members.
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