Community fights to keep Westlake District day labor center open as owner threatens closure

WESTLAKE DISTRICT, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Day laborers are fighting to keep the Central American Resource Center, a fixture in the Westlake District shopping center, open after its owner said it has become a nuisance and wants to shut it down.

CARECEN has been in the shopping center for 15 years. But on Dec. 17, attorneys representing the property's owner, Wilshire Union Center, issued a notice to clear it out in a month. However, day laborers who frequent the center and its supporters are not backing down.

"I think that this center mitigates a lot of the issues that are outlined in the letter," said Martha Arevalo, the center's executive director.

The letter sent to CARECEN states that it has become a blight and claims that applicants of the center are loitering on the property, allegedly using alcohol and drugs. The letter also mentions public urination, vandalism, theft and threatening behavior towards employees and visitors.

Eduardo Sinay, a day laborer who's been working out of the center for a few years said he and many of the others who use the center to find work, do what they can to keep it clean.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is joining the fight to keep the center open.

"I'd like to say you have the backing of the entire L.A. labor movement behind you for this fight and we are all in it until we win," said the federation's Rosemarie Molina as she addressed a crowd at the center Thursday.

The Los Angeles Black Labor Center is also speaking out against the possible closure. Malcolm Harris says day labor centers make sure workers who use them are protected, adding that they create a sense of order for the workers.

Harris said the impact of the center being shut down would have a negative impact on the community.

Some local residents told Eyewitness News there's a growing homeless problem in the neighborhood that may contribute to some of the problems around the shopping center.

CARECEN officials say they're scheduled to meet with city leaders to discuss next steps as the center accepts tax payer funds to help keep it open.

The center will remain open through Jan. 17 but officials say they plan to continue fighting the eviction notice.
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