MacArthur Park homeless seeking shelter elsewhere before closure

MACARTHUR PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A section of MacArthur Park, just west of downtown Los Angeles, will be closed starting Friday for cleanup and renovations.

And that means the homeless people living there now will have to leave.

The city is hoping to avoid some of the chaos and controversy that occurred during a similar situation at Echo Park earlier this year. When that park closed, there were protests and clashes involving police and activists, and complaints that the city didn't give the homeless adequate notice to leave.

Key to avoiding those problems is giving the homeless plenty of advance notice and making sure they have places to go.

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"I didn't know exactly what was gonna happen," said Valerie Zeller. "But I knew it was gonna happen. Most of these people (in MacArthur Park) knew in advance. Echo Park did not know. I did not know. I was living in Echo Park when they came in, all the cops. They never warned us at all."

The homeless residents of the park were told weeks ago that the lake side of MacArthur Park was closing this week to be cleaned up.

According to Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo's office, homeless services have helped nearly 250 people find shelter and services.

We saw how the outreach was working as teams from the group PATH - People Assisting The Homeless - talked with residents who eventually agreed to take advantage of the services being offered by the city.

Ann Reyes with PATH says, "that's the foundation of the outreach of building rapport. So not only have we been out here once we heard about the closure of the park, our teams have built a solid foundation here. Since January we've doing outreach here at MacArthur Park."

The outreach teams have also earned the residents' trust.

John says he's been living here for three years.

He says "everything's cool. It's easy. We haven't been harassed. The cops have given us flyers that we have to be out by the 15th. I'm almost out of here, today or tomorrow. But I'm good. They're going to give me that hotel motel thing. Be there at certain hours, don't bring this, no alcohol, no women, no fun. But I'll be OK."

We saw some of the residents with their belongings accepting the services being offered by the homeless advocates. They were given rides to shelters to start the process of leaving the streets and working on permanent housing.

The park closure starts this Friday, Oct. 15. It'll take about two months for the city to clean it up and reopen it.

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