Coronavirus: L.A. to Move Homeless into Neighborhood Recreation Centers

Food homeless Los Angeles (Kevork Djansezian / Getty)
Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Mayor Eric Garcetti is going ahead with a plan to move thousands of homeless people in Los Angeles into recreation centers in residential neighborhoods as part of the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rumors have been circulating among residents, and were confirmed on Saturday by the L.A. Times:

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan for transforming 42 recreation centers into homeless shelters got its start on Friday, with city crews bringing in supplies, spacing cots and laying tarp on gymnasium floors. The initiative is part of a larger strategy to blunt the spread of the novel coronavirus among the city’s most vulnerable residents.

At each site, the city will provide workers with protective equipment, including coveralls, face masks and gloves, said Ashley Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Department of Recreation and Parks. Those who move in will receive socks, blankets and personal hygiene kits, she said.

At a special meeting of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commission on Thursday, housing task force chief Amy Perkins said the new shelters were being limited to about 80% of their capacity to maintain proper spacing, as recommended by public health officials. Beds are expected to be 6½ feet apart.

 

Garcetti’s approach fits with the policy set by Governor Gavin Newsom, who has said he would like all of the state’s homeless to be moved indoors during the pandemic.

An alternative approach would be to leave homeless people out in the open air, where they can maintain a social distance, while still providing other forms of assistance.

But in Los Angeles, where many homeless people live in informal encampments, there appears to be a fear that homeless people will be exposed to the virus more readily.

The San Francisco Chronicle, citing federal officials not authorized to speak, reported that “they’re finding it’s safer to leave homeless camps outside in the open air, with proper spacing and sanitation facilities, than to move people into cramped settings indoors.”

It is not clear what, if any, consultation with local communities took place before the decision to use recreation centers to house the homeless. It is also not clear whether best public health practice is informing this decision. One local community leader, who did not want to be quoted directly, said the recreation centers should be used to provide hospital space for local residents.

Breitbart News has obtained a list, which has yet to be confirmed, of all of the recreation centers where Garcetti plans to house homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Questions remain about whether homeless people would be more prone to infecting each other in the shelters, and whether they might pose a risk for the surrounding communities, as well as where the homeless would go once the pandemic ended.

A request for comment from the mayor’s office has not yet received a reply.

Both Garcetti and Newsom have come under severe criticism for the explosion in the state’s homeless population over the past several years. A federal report last year said that California was “entirely” responsible for the growth of the homeless population nationwide, and the homeless population in Los Angeles alone soared to nearly 60,000.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
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