‘This just ain’t no tent’

Los Angeles Times - - THE NA­TION - ben.pos­ton@la­times.com Twit­ter: @bpos­ton doug.smith@la­times.com Twit­ter: @LAT­doug

of trash, ac­cord­ing to the san­i­ta­tion bureau.

The cleanup process

The process usu­ally be­gins when some­one sub­mits a re­quest by calling 311 or us­ing the MyLA311 app. City san­i­ta­tion work­ers scout the site to ver­ify the ex­is­tence of an en­camp­ment and then sched­ule it for cleanup, which oc­curs on av­er­age two weeks later, city data show.

Signs are posted 72 hours in ad­vance to in­form home­less peo­ple of the pend­ing sweep. Outreach work­ers from the L.A. Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity visit the lo­ca­tion to en­cour­age res­i­dents to seek hous­ing and treat­ment ser­vices.

On cleanup day, large trash trucks rum­ble down the street, ac­com­pa­nied by biowaste teams in white suits. Po­lice of­fi­cers are there in case any­one re­sists, which of­fi­cials said is rare.

The pro­to­col re­quires san­i­ta­tion work­ers to pro­vide each home­less per­son with a 60-gal­lon plas­tic bag to fill with be­long­ings. If there’s too much per­sonal prop­erty to fit in the bag, the re­main­der must be tagged and trans­ported to a down­town stor­age fa­cil­ity to be held for 90 days. Of­ten that doesn’t hap­pen.

“The ma­jor­ity are gone be­fore we get there,” said Leo Martinez, who over­sees home­less en­camp­ment cleanup for the city San­i­ta­tion Bureau. “There is very lit­tle re­sis­tance and very lit­tle in­ter­ac­tion.”

Shop­ping carts are clas­si­fied as trash and loaded along with mat­tresses, chairs, tarps and other items left be­hind.

Drug para­pher­na­lia, crude weapons and wooden pal­lets could be seen at one re­cent spot. A piece of ply­wood at an aban­doned South L.A. camp was scrawled with a mes­sage: “This just ain’t no tent. It’s my home.”

Crews use rakes and shov­els to re­move items, be­ing care­ful to avoid con­tam­i­nated nee­dles or other haz­ards, said san­i­ta­tion Supt. Rus­sell Zamora.

“I al­ways tell my group don’t touch any­thing with your hands be­cause you may think it’s just a pile of trash, but there may be a nee­dle right in there,” Zamora said.

Af­ter col­lect­ing any ma­te­rial that ap­pears con­tam­i­nated for sep­a­rate dis­posal, the biowaste team sprays the area with dis­in­fec­tant.

‘Nowhere to go’

Danny Dancy was sit­ting glumly on a curb off Slau­son Av­enue in South L.A. near the en­camp­ment where he’d been stay­ing for months. Ten min­utes later, a san­i­ta­tion crew ar­rived to clear the side­walk of his be­long­ings — the sixth such cleanup there.

“I imag­ine they are go­ing to take ev­ery­thing,” Dancy said. “I think the money they spend could be put to a bet­ter use. It’s tough be­cause you don’t have nowhere to go.”

But help was around the cor­ner. Home­less outreach work­ers were on hand to share in­for­ma­tion about shel­ters and other ser­vices with street dwellers who were frus­trated or con­fused about what to do next.

Jeremiah Diaz, an em­ployee with the home­less outreach or­ga­ni­za­tion Hopics, said that as the city has in­creased the fre­quency of cleanups, he has no­ticed that home­less res­i­dents seem more will­ing to ac­cept help. Dur­ing one cleanup in May on Grand Av­enue in South L.A., his group per­suaded three campers to move into a shel­ter.

“It’s kind of a stron­garmed way to do it, but we are get­ting a lot more in­ter­est in ser­vices,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.