South LA parents upset over homeless encampment near elementary school

Rob Hayes Image
Saturday, May 1, 2021
South LA parents upset over homeless camp near school
Parents of students who attend the South L.A. elementary school say their kids are scared to leave the school grounds due to the nearby homeless encampment.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- South Los Angeles residents are calling on the city to remove a homeless encampment that has grown across the street from an elementary school.

The encampment includes tents, RVs and other vehicles directly across from Gerald A. Lawson Academy in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood. Parents of students who attend the school say their kids are scared to leave the school grounds.

"All the kids coming to school (have) to walk through all this filth and broken bottles, fecal matter, urination and it's literally right outside the school," said one father who did not want to be identified.

Student drop-offs and pick-ups are unmanageable, he says, because the encampment encompasses most of the block.

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L.A. City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson represents the district where the encampment has grown. He says he too is frustrated with the rising homeless numbers.

"The encampments are completely unacceptable," he told Eyewitness News. "They're not acceptable for the residents. They're not acceptable for youth. And they're not acceptable for the people who are laying their head every night. This is not who we are."

Harris-Dawson held a news conference Friday about Project Homekey, the government plan to move the homeless into hotel rooms. He says projects like that are helping move people into homes, but just not fast enough.

"Unfortunately, we don't have a situation where there are housing units available for every person who appears on the street," said Harris-Dawson. "That's part of why the city is being sued and challenged in court."

Meanwhile, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is pitching another high-price tag housing plan. This one calls for an additional $1 billion to be spent building homes for the unhoused. That was the goal of the nearly five-year-old Proposition HHH, which has taken years to create homes.

"We've now built by the end of this summer 28 new shelters, over 10,000 units of housing - actually we'll get to 11,000," Garcetti told Eyewitness News. "HHH is producing a thousand units more of housing two years earlier with less subsidy than we promised."

Those successes though have yet to make a difference to the students who attend Lawson Academy. Parents say they are sympathetic to the challenges the homeless face, but frustrated that the mayor and city council have failed to resolve the problem.

"We do understand that they are homeless and they're looking for help," said one parent of a Lawson Academy student. "But at the same time... I want a city that will come and help us. We're already dealing with gun violence. We're already dealing with all this drug abuse. We just need help."