Parishioners and visitors to Placita Olvera, located in downtown Los Angeles, could soon find a cleaner and more orderly area around the iconic church, which is currently surrounded by homeless people spending their days in tents. .
This would be the restul of the teamwork between the Los Angeles Councilor Kevin de León’s office, the Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and other entities that have committed to finish cleaning the area just in time for the start of Christmas.
Around 70 people live around the perimeter from César Chávez Avenue to the north, to Aliso Street to the south, Spring to the west and Alameda Street to the east.
The news was welcomed by mothers, such as María Martínez and Beatriz González, who had to walk next to the tents on Monday morning on their way to visit the Placita Olvera church.
Martínez accepted that they do not feel safe, much less walking with a stroller and a small girl since they do not know who can step out.
“Before, when we came to mass, there were people selling little things, be it rosaries or candles and we prefer to see those things than to see this,” she said.
For her part, González added that she is pleased to see the Sheriff’s deputies offering help to the homeless.
“It’s very good because these are places where a lot of people come with children and if they help them [those living on the streets] we will start to believe that nothing is going to happen to our children… Many times there are people in there who have a bad mind and it is scary to pass and that one of them attacks us ”.
LASD chief Alex Villanueva arrived yesterday to supervise the area and said that they are in charge of cleaning up since the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is currently without funds to have a team that focuses on removing and offering specialized services to deal with the homeless.
“They had a team called HOPE [Homeless Outreach Proactive Engagement] and now we are the only ones left, the HOST team [Outreach Services Team on a Humanitarian Mission]”, he explained.
“The county budget only allowed four sheriffs, a sergeant and a lieutenant for the team and I added 22 more.”
Villanueva said that the tents on the sidewalks are a threat to public safety, not only for the homeless but also for the economy.
“Before the day celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe comes, the “posadas” and the Christmas Eve mass, I want everyone to be able to come here and enjoy because it is a cultural and symbolic center of the county and the city,” said the Sheriff’s chief.
Services and information for the homeless
Pete Brown, spokesman for councilor De León, assured that the councilor is leading the cleanup effort that began several weeks ago.
He added that teams from his office have been in charge of contacting the 70 homeless people they found in the tents to offer them the necessary services, including housing and mental health assistance.
“Fortunately we were able to work very closely with the mayor’s office [Eric Garcetti] to make sure we find the units we need to move people, ”Brown said.
He added that the presence of the Sheriff is vital since they are the ones who have the mental services help team.
“As we know, there is a large number of people here facing mental health problems,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, De León and other council members are already working on including a way for the city of Los Angeles to have its own health representation and to help the county.
Ready to move in
In one of the tents was Sherylin Oropelle, a transsexual person, who said that today Tuesday she will move to her new home.
She said she is very grateful to see that this help is carried out for the homeless since for her living on the street has become traumatic.
“I would love to see where all the help comes from because I have passed so many times in front of the Police Department and I am afraid that they will retaliate against me,” said Oropel, who lost count of the years she has lived on the street.
She is originally from Connecticut but lived in New Mexico for a long time, eventually moving to Los Angeles and in April 2020 began living on the perimeter of Placita Olvera.
But sometimes I feel terrified because those who pass by yell at me [things] because I am a transsexual”, she said. “With the help that they are going to give me, I am also hoping to return to a Trans wellness center and start receiving the necessary help.”
The Sheriff’s HOST unit is tasked with providing needed help and resources to the homeless in a safe and humane manner, said Lt. Geoffrey Deedrick.
He noted that the work is a collaboration with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the county Department of Mental Aid and the Department of Public Works.
He also said that people do want to go live in a more stable place but that sometimes they do not feel comfortable with the people who offer them help.
“We have highly trained sheriffs who specialize in crisis stabilization and homeless outreach.”
He assured that no one will be forced to leave the area but they are willing to return multiple times so that people feel comfortable to accept the help.
“Many of these people have never had a positive interaction with the police … With us it is different, we create a window of opportunity for them to come and accept help,” he said.
Tinsel said he cannot wait for the moment to receive the promised help, to be able to sleep in a bed and take a bath.