Echo Park Lake set to reopen Wednesday, checking in with the homeless population who lived there

As officials prepare to reopen Echo Park Lake, many are wondering if the homeless population will return.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Echo Park Lake set to reopen after LA cleared out homeless encampment
As officials prepare to reopen Echo Park Lake, many are wondering if the homeless population will return.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As officials prepare to reopen Echo Park Lake, many are wondering if the homeless population will return.

When Echo Park Lake shut down for repairs in March, many of those living in tents were moved into Project Roomkey, a temporary shelter program that uses empty hotel rooms to house those in need.

But according to people in the program, it's been a rough couple of months.

"You have staff members that will come in and just barge into your room, whenever they feel like it," said Leonard Averhart, who is homeless and is a part of the program.

MORE | Despite chaos, Councilman O'Farrell calls clearing of Echo Park homeless encampment a success

City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell claimed success in the effort to clean up Echo Park Lake, with the last of more than 200 homeless people removed, and a $500,000 repair and restoration project underway after days of protests that included more than 180 arrests.

According to Diana Doo, who was formerly part of Project Roomkey, there's also a strict curfew. Doo said she was was unfairly kicked out of Project Roomkey, and that it was due to being late three times. According to her, it's a "three strikes and you're out" policy.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority replied to the allegations against Project Roomkey telling ABC7 there is a policy in place, but they do try to work with people around their schedules.

Averhart said he's still waiting for access to a case worker.

"A lot of people do not have a case manager, some of us have been here for months now," he said.

MORE | 35.7 tons of solid waste removed from Echo Park Lake

Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment crews removed 35.7 tons of solid waste from Echo Park Lake since the park's closure on March 25. Meanwhile, the park could reopen by the end of the month.

People staying in Project Roomkey are not allowed to have a room key, which LAHSA says is due to safety reasons.

In an official statement, LAHSA told ABC7 Eyewitness News:

"Over the last year, the homeless re-housing system responded to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis with a quickly organized multi-agency collaboration that has brought over 8,000 people experiencing homelessness who are vulnerable to COVID-19 inside. In partnership with FEMA, the State of California, and the County and City of Los Angeles, we launched Project Roomkey to provide an immediate option for our most vulnerable unsheltered neighbors to shelter in place. The goal of this lifesaving program is to stop the spread of COVID-19 among our unhoused population. As such, the program design was built around minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through wellness checks, minimal in-person contact, and ensuring the overall health and safety of those we serve.

From the beginning, LAHSA and its providers have focused our efforts on developing housing plans with Project Roomkey participants to place them on a path to permanent housing and limit how many people return to unsheltered locations."

Officials have announced Echo Park Lake will reopen on Wednesday, but Doo and Averhart said they won't be returning because they want to find steady housing. The park is set to reopen to the public at 3 p.m.