City cleans up Silver Lake area homeless encampment – for now

City crews clean up homeless encampment on Silver Lake Boulevard.

Frustrated by the amount of debris on the city's streets, a Los Angeles City Council Committee today ordered the bureau in charge of handling illegal dumping and trash around homeless encampments to justify its work.

During a meeting of the City Council's Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee, City Council President-Elect Nury Martinez said she had concerns about the Comprehensive Cleaning and Rapid Engagement, or CARE, and CARE-Plus teams because of the visible debris lining the city's streets, which she said has been a particular nuisance to residents of the San Fernando Valley.

The teams were increased and deployed in October, and they did proactive work before then.

The city is spending roughly $6.5 million this year on cleanup services and outreach to homeless people living in encampments, as well as several hygienic services.

"How can we have deployed this new program, basically to make you think that things were going to improve, but when you drive my district I actually think it's actually gotten worse than it was several months ago," Martinez said.

Martinez said she appreciated the outreach from the CARE teams, but she said the cleanup areas have sometimes been in worse condition than before the teams arrived.

The committee instructed the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and Environment, which oversees the CARE teams, to report back to the committee in January with an action plan on making "visible improvements," how the CARE teams are using their funds, to justify why the CARE programs should continue and any operational changes that can be made between now and January.

LASAN officials said there are now 30 CARE teams working, with at least one team in each City Council district, with a total of 225 team members.

The CARE teams have been working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in providing extended outreach to homeless encampments prior to cleanups, but committee members said they would like to see 72-hour notices and then for cleanups to commence.

Domingo Orosco, the assistant director of LASAN's livability services division, said the increase in CARE team members has already helped collect more trash compared to last year, but he said a lot of the members are new.

"One of the things that we've been having a rocky start with are just getting the teams situated, making sure that they have the training, support, staffing and equipment necessary," Orosco said. "A lot of the training is still ongoing."

Orosco said LASAN is also working to make sure that it is appropriately working with the Los Angeles Police Department and the City Attorney's Office during cleanups, and he said LAHSA's assistance has been critical to building trust with the communities that they serve.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said he wants to make sure that the City Council members are directing the CARE teams and where they need to go.

"I understand is that it has gotten better in recent weeks," O'Farrell said. "I just want to make sure we have a complete reboot of who they listen to. We (the council) have to lead in prioritizing these jobs. It's all really great, but none of it will work if we're taken out of the decision- making process."

In addition to the instructions for LASAN, the committee moved for the City Council to consider obtaining a report on the feasibility of installing rat-proof trash receptacles around Skid Row downtown and where homeless encampments are populous.

The committee also forwarded a proposed billboard program to alert residents in Council District 6 about the city's 311 hotline that residents can call to report illegal dumping, and to explore the possibility of tracking areas in need of cleanups throughout the city.

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