As heavy rains showered the city this week, LA Mayor Karen Bass pushed ahead with her promise to get some of the homeless off the streets and into motel rooms, as part of her “Inside Safe” program.
Less than a month after announcing the program, the Mayor’s office says more than 100 homeless people have accepted housing, as outreach efforts focused on Venice–where encampments have appeared next to luxury condos–and in Hollywood, one of LA’s tourist meccas.
In mid-December, Mayor Bass announced her “Inside Safe” program, which would offer immediate housing and services to people in encampments “based on which locations are most chronic and where people are most in crisis.”
Skid Row is widely considered Ground Zero of the country’s homelessness crisis–with an estimated 5,000 unhoused people living on sidewalks and in shelters–far more homeless people than in any other part of LA.
“I don’t know what the Mayor’s priorities are. What I can tell you, is that if Skid Row isn’t one of them, we’re failing,” said Estela Lopez, head of the Central City East Business Improvement District, which includes Skid Row.
Eight days ago, Lopez emailed Mayor Bass’ new Chief of Homelessness Solutions, Mercedes Marquez, saying “We need help in Skid Row. What’s the plan for our area?” Lopez said she hasn’t received an answer.
The I-Team also asked to interview Marquez to discuss which encampments the city will dismantle next and how many motel rooms the city now has to offer some of LA’s 41,000 homeless people. The I-Team so far hasn’t received specific answers to the interview request or to detailed questions.
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“LA is known for Skid Row. And until this gets cleaned up, LA hasn’t solved anything,” Estela Lopez told NBC4.
Housed residents in less touristy areas than Venice and Hollywood, feel the “Inside Safe” program has yet to address chronic encampments in their neighborhoods.
“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said George Frem about the encampment next to his car repair business on Venice Blvd under the 405 freeway, where trash overflows into the street and where there have been numerous shootings.
But Frem, and Estela Lopez, continue to press city officials about when the homeless in their areas will be offered housing and the encampments dismantled.
As Lopez prepared to do an interview with the I-Team this week during a chilly rainstorm, she noticed a homeless woman lying on the sidewalk in a soaking wet sleeping bag, crying out “I would like some help… I can’t move my legs.”
She called LA Fire Department paramedics, who say they get about 45 calls like that every day in Skid Row.
As the woman was put in an ambulance to be taken to the hospital, Lopez broke down in tears.
“I am tired, just tired, of seeing human beings left out in the cold to die,” she told NBC4.