Harbor City homeless encampment removed in effort to get them into shelters

HARBOR CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles city officials want to clean up an encampment area in Harbor City and get homeless people into shelters as it works on a longterm solution.

But as many residents of the encampment packed up and moved out, they said they will find a new site nearby.

"I'll be here. Somewhere around here because we know the area. It's safe for us," Albert Roche said.

Roche said he will not go to a shelter but does want a place for his friend Patti, who is recovering after being hit by a truck.

And what about finding a shelter that will take a pet? It's a tough choice for the owner of Bobo. Joyce Engle said she's needed Bobo for security.

"Recently, one of our own was shot," she said.

Solutions can be complex. City Councilman Joe Busciano, who toured the encampment last spring, said it is why he is behind measures that will bring more help for the homeless in his district than anywhere in the city. That help comes in the form of affordable housing and three transition centers in Watts, Wilmington and San Pedro.

"A Bridge Home will offer a bed, showers, toilets, storage and 24/7 onsite security, and 24/7 LAPD patrol for the surrounding community," he said in a video advertising a homeless shelter.

Over the years, lawsuits have been filed on behalf of homeless residents to protect their rights.

Sanitation workers can't toss everything at the encampment. Personal items such as photographs and documents have to be sorted out, logged and stored for 90 days so the owner has time to retrieve them. But anything else must go - encampments that have 40 to 50 people or more are deemed a health hazard.

"Because of the urine, the feces and things like that - needles, we have needles all on the ground. That's what the hazmat crew is for," said Steve Reed, with the department of sanitation.

As for Engle, she received help from a mental health nonprofit. If it means giving up Bobo, she said she will do it. She's urged her neighbors to link up with programs, too.

"Do it. I mean this is not life. This is not a life - it's a lifestyle, but it's not a life. Definitely not," she said.
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