Before any action could be taken regarding the removal of the homeless encampment on the corner of Victory Boulevard and De Soto Avenue on March 2, officials had to go through months of legal and humanitarian counsel.
The amount of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County has been increasing through the years. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, homelessness increased by 5.7 percent since 2014. In 2016, 46,874 homeless people were counted in the census.
Officer Daniel Harty and Officer Hector Pereida of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Proactive Engagement Team (HOPE Team) work out of the San Fernando Valley area offering homeless outreach to individuals in the Valley.
The homeless encampment near Pierce housed at least one person, and according to Pereida, the HOPE Team came by multiple times over the course of three weeks trying to provide assistance.
“We encounter all kinds of walks of life: veterans, people with pets, pregnant females, families with kids, and depending what the background is, they’re actually good candidates for certain programs,” Pereida said. “We usually just try to call and connect them to that or actually have people come out to the field with us and we’ll set up an appointment for the next day, next week.”
Harty said that they work closely with the divisions and with the city council districts to address community complaints in heavy crime areas.
“We go out and try to offer homeless services to those individuals,” Harty said. “We see what we can do to connect them to LA Homeless Services Authority or LA Family Housing. We see if they get any type of social services, if they need medical attention, if they need rehab, anything like that, and get them back connected with family if we can.”
Trying to connect them with their families can sometimes be easy if a missing person’s report was filed, but other times they have to do more digging to locate relatives, according to Pereida. The HOPE Team tries to locate homeless people, but when they come across belongings sitting idly for long periods of time, they have other responsibilities as a part of their job, Harty said.
“We’re out here trying to make contact with this guy. He obviously isn’t here. Part of our duties is to assist sanitation with cleanups,” Harty said. “If you get a location that’s a homeless encampment, that meets out of compliance with the standards that the city has established, then we’ll assist with sanitation so they’ll be able to clean it up. Sometimes the individuals are not very compliant with sanitation.”
Pereida said that Proposition HHH brought in $1.2 billion, but that isn’t completely benefitting the homeless of Los Angeles County because people are arriving from other cities and states to reap the benefits.
“Many people have a misconception that we are trying to make it harder for the homeless people, but we are out here trying to get them help,” Pereida said.
Environmental Compliance Inspector Miguel Garcia was called to perform a routine investigation to assure that the projects were compliant with important environmental laws.
“We found feces and urine, and you could smell it,” Garcia said. “We’ve cleared it so it doesn’t spread diseases throughout the community.”
First-year Pierce College students Oscar Hilarioa and Giovanni Dominguez, walked by the encampment everyday going to school.
“It’s been here for about a month and whenever I pass by, no one’s in there, it’s just gathering dust and dirt,” Hilario said. “It they do find someone living in there, they should help them out instead of taking down their home. They should do something about it.”
Passing by doesn’t bother them, but they think someone should help that person.
“It never really bothered me about it being here, but if they do need help they should help them find a nearest shelter,” Dominguez said. “Or if they have problems, to take them to the nearest hospital.”
Mario Torres works for Los Angeles Sanitations Homeless Outreach Partnership Endeavor Hope Team program and said he was following protocol.
The program is a combined effort to give homeless individuals and their families an avenue to better their living conditions and provide access to food, shelter, short time housing, medical services and mental health resources, according to the Olympic Decision H.O.P.E website.
“The officers do outreach beforehand and try to get to know the individual who’s homeless,” Torres said. “We follow their lead, and obviously, our first goal is to get them help. We come and clean up any bulky items or trash that’s left over that’s in the public right of way, especially for anybody with a disability, they need space to walk.”
–Additional reporting by Samantha Bravo–