Echo Park homeless encampment under 101 Freeway at Alvarado

Echo Park homeless encampment under the 101 Freeway at Alvarado

Echo Park -- City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell filed a motion today to look at emergency shelter options on public or private property for homeless people in Echo Park, who have been vocal about their predicament in recent weeks.

"Due to the increase in unsheltered homelessness in the area, there is a need for a safe place in the community of Echo Park for unhoused residents to gain access to services that will assist them in finding housing placements and other resources," O'Farrell wrote in his motion.

If the motion is approved by the full City Council, city staff would be instructed to look at potential sites , capacity, security needs, hours of operation and types of services that might provided.

O'Farrell has been under consistent pressure by activists to allow a large homeless encampment to remain at Echo Park Lake in addition to bringing more services to the area.

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.

A letter sent to the councilman last month says: "We did not end up unhoused by choice, nor do we desire to stay on the streets forever. At this point, there is no viable option for shelter within or near (Council District) 13 for all of us. Many of us have tried to enter the shelter system elsewhere and do not feel safe or comfortable returning to those places."

The letter said many in the group, which numbers several dozen, have federal housing vouchers and have had to wait for housing for two or three years. "But what we need and what we desire is to create a solution within this city council district, our home."

During a cleanup in January at the encampment at the northwest section of Echo Park Lake, where people without permanent shelter have taken up residency, members of the group confronted park rangers and crew members, with members of advocacy groups on hand for support.

No one was evicted from the park, but city officials said the maintenance was necessary.

Homeless advocates protested O'Farrell's field office on Tuesday when another scheduled cleanup took place by setting up tents just outside the office doors.

In O'Farrell's motion, he said a permanent supportive housing project with 100 units is being planned in the area.

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.

The councilman followed up with another motion that seeks to expand the hours for use of the Echo Park Lake restrooms on the northwest corner of the park for 24-hour access for six months in order to address "urgent hygiene and public health needs."

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

The motion O'Farrell filed Friday will first be heard by the City Council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee, which he chairs.

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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