L.A. task force to deal with moving homeless from high-risk flooding, fire areas

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new task force has been created to focus on homeless encampments in Los Angeles County, specifically encampments in areas that are high-risk for flood or fire.

Cherri Canfield and Danielle Johnson call an encampment along the San Gabriel River near the Huntington Drive overpass their home.

For those living there, they go on about their business every day. It is one of the camps the county would clear out when there's a high fire danger.

Canfield and Johnson said they'd stay even if fire threatened it.

"We've had like four fires that we've put out before the fire department has gotten here... We do have safety meetings also," Johnson said.

The Board of Supervisors will send out a task force led by the sheriff's department and other public agencies to go into encampments to safely evacuate the people and pets who live in them.

"We've had two fires. We had one in the riverbed that was linked to an encampment and we had one in Santa Clarita that was linked to an encampment," said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. "This is not about criminalizing the homeless. They're doing it because they want to stay warm or cook their food, but it still causes a threat to human life and property. So we have to be aggressive on this."

A group of sheriff's deputies was recognized for their work as part of a task force that reaches out to the homeless. The deputies go out to these encampments, according to the department, to check up on the homeless and make sure there isn't anything criminal going on.

The team will also be a part of the group that clears them out when there's a high fire danger.

At the San Gabriel River, services for the homeless include showers, food and legal help - some services Canfield and Johnson said they wouldn't accept.

"Because they want to ship you to L.A., they want to ship you everywhere," Canfield said.
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