L.A. City Council Approves Use of Trailers as Emergency Homeless Shelters

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A councilman's proposal to house about five dozen homeless people in trailers on a downtown lot as a possible model for citywide temporary shelters was approved today by the Los Angeles City Council.

The motion introduced last month by Councilman Jose Huizar, and approved on a 12-0 vote, calls for five trailers to be installed on a city- owned parking lot at Arcadia and Alameda streets to house people who sleep on the sidewalks in the area around the historic El Pueblo site off of Main Street. It marks a significant new approach in how the city is looking to tackle the problem of homelessness.

Huizar last week also introduced another motion that would have the city study the feasibility of taking the same approach on a much larger scale in nearby Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 people sleep on the streets every night. The council has yet to vote on that proposal.

The El Pueblo area shelters could be installed and operated for six months at a cost of $2 million, according to Huizar, who said the annual cost after that would be about $1.4 million to operate the site.

``This is the first of its kind. We're not necessarily calling it a pilot, because we're hoping to work on others at the same time,'' Huizar told City News Service after the El Pueblo motion was introduced and before he introduced the larger Skid Row proposal.

The trailer proposal came from a task force formed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to brainstorm how to get thousands of unsheltered people off the streets. The initiative to provide temporary shelter is a new strategy for the city, which has focused primarily on encouraging the construction of permanent housing through $1.2 billion in voter-approved bonds under Measure HHH, which was passed in 2016.

``Permanent supportive housing is a model that works,'' Huizar told CNS last month. ``It is a model that you get wraparound services, the individuals there you can send them different places -- they don't get lost. But as we did that and came up with it as a long-term solution, we need some more immediate things, and this is what we are able to come up with.''

The El Pueblo plan is to install three trailers for beds, one trailer to house administrative workers and case management services, and one hygiene trailer with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Huizar said the hope is that the people who stay there could be transitioned into permanent housing within six months through the on-site services they would receive.

Huizar told CNS the El Pueblo site would cost an average of about $60 per bed per night to operate, which is an estimate that can be applied to other trailer sites under consideration, including the Skid Row proposal, which he said could need $20 million to get up and running as a ``back-of-the-envelope'' estimate.

The council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee approved the El Pueblo motion last week over the concerns of some local business owners and merchants who fear that the shelter would draw more homeless into the area.

Huizar said he shared the concerns of the local merchants and wanted to see a guarantee from the city that it would primarily serve the homeless already living in the El Pueblo area. He also vowed that the city would do more outreach to the community about the plan, and pointed out that the area already has a significant level of homeless people sleeping on the streets and sidewalks.

``They are there, and the theory behind this is to see if we can get those individuals there in one center as opposed to being scattered out so that within six months, within a year we see less encampments, less people obstructing the public right of way. That's the idea,'' Huizar said at that meeting.

Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles jumped by 20 percent in 2017 while the county saw a spike of 23 percent, according to the results of the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. In the city, the total number of homeless went up to 34,189 and the county number increased to 57,794.

Photo: Getty Images

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