L.A.'s Costly Homeless Cleanup Effort Seems to be Futile

165,000 homeless encampments and over 3,000 tons of trash have been cleaned and removed by Los Angeles Public Works personnel since 2015. This has cost the city $14 million and counting; however, a review by the LA Times states that this effort has made very minimal impact on the number of encampments found along riverbanks, on sidewalks, and in alleys across Los Angeles.

365 blocks with encampments were recorded by the city’s CleanStat program, which is a 12% decline since 2016, but different records show that these encampments merely moved to different locations within L.A. Quite adversely, the city has actually reported that the number of homeless encampments within Los Angeles has actually increased by 18% this year.

The influx of homeless peoples have frustrated residents and business owners, and has been a huge source of complaints to the city; however, officials are legally barred from being able to evict them and/or confiscate their tents when they have nowhere else to go.

The rapid increase in homeless encampments have led many to believe that the city’s massive spending on the cleanup effort has been in vain.

President of the Board of Public Works, Kevin James, defended the effort, saying, “What might have happened had we not spent that money? Who might have ended up in an unsafe situation because of hazardous material or where someone is forced to walk into the street? The money is well-spent.”

Many business owners have, however, noticed that many homeless people who are moved from freeway overpasses and street medians nearby merely come back a few weeks after the cleanup.

Joreen Chism, who owns a hair salon in North Hills, recounted that work crews come clean up the encampments and then the homeless come right back. She claims that it's a "never-ending cycle" and contributes it to the fact that the clean-up crews don't find a place for the displaced people to go- they only tell them they need to move.

Public Works Commissioner Heather Repenning believes that even if the homeless encampments end up returning, the area is still safer overall thanks to the city’s cleanup efforts.

“Part of the homeless crisis is managing people who are living outdoors, and part of managing that is making sure the basic public health levels are met and that people have outreach done to them so they can know how to access services,” Repenning said.


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