Protesters erect tent city in front of L.A. City Hall

first_imgOne year after promises were made to improve the treatment of the city’s 40,000 homeless, a tent city was erected Thursday in front of Los Angeles City Hall to protest the lack of progress and what some claim is the criminalization of poverty. After erecting a dozen tents on the South Lawn, more than 300 people held a demonstration, calling for more housing for the homeless and an end to a Los Angeles Police Department crackdown on Skid Row. “Exactly a year ago, our leaders came to Skid Row and pledged to end homelessness in 10 years,” said Bob Erlenbush of the Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness. “But, once the television cameras left, we heard nothing. All we got was lip service and rhetoric and no action.” Several advocates for the homeless joined in the one-day protest, which Erlenbush said will return to City Hall on a periodic basis to drive home the point on the need to take action. However, Mark Rosenbaum, chief legal adviser for the ACLU, said the city has shifted its responsibility for the homelessness problem over to the LAPD, whose solution is simply to jail the homeless. “A while ago, we all took offense at the idea of people being stopped for driving while black,” Rosenbaum said. “Now, we have a problem of people being arrested for walking while black.” But Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes Skid Row, defended the city’s program and the LAPD crackdown. “The ongoing conflict about what activities should be allowed in Skid Row needs to stop,” Perry said. “The police effort was designed to protect those people, particularly women and children, who often become the victims of crime.” Erlenbush said the organizations want city, county and state officials to live up to the promises made last year to deal with the long-standing homeless problem. Advocates want Villaraigosa to name a deputy mayor to coordinate homelessness issues and to provide housing programs throughout the region, rather than concentrating them in the downtown area. And they want city officials to convene a summit on homelessness to coincide with Homeless Memorial Day on Dec.21. “We need to think big,” Erlenbush said. “New York City has a program that will develop 165,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. In Los Angeles, we’re talking about 4,251 units.” [email protected] 213-978-0390 Aides to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he sympathizes with the homeless and has been working to resolve the problems, with a big boost coming from a $200million trust fund to build below-market housing. They also defended the Safer Cities Initiative, in which the LAPD deployed 50 additional officers to fight crime on Skid Row. The program has resulted in about 6,000 arrests, but it has been criticized by advocates, who claim the homeless are being unfairly targeted. But the mayor issued a statement saying the program is designed to protect, not harm, the homeless. “They have enough of daily struggle without having to fend for themselves against crimes,” Villaraigosa said. last_img read more