VENICE - Los Angeles' mandatory homeless encampment cleanup program, known as CARE+, resumed Tuesday at the request of the city council, however it's unclear how it will be implemented in Council District 11. CARE+ was temporarily paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, except around ``A Bridge Home'' shelters, where it continued following a July 29, 2020 vote by council members.
On June 30 of this year, the council voted to continue the cleanups, which require the homeless to remove their tents and belongings while sanitation workers sweep, power wash and remove trash and hazardous materials from the area, according to LA Sanitation and Environment, which added that unattended belongings are ``bagged, tagged and stored.''
Opponents of the practice say people's belongings are often destroyed in the process. The Services Not Sweeps coalition launched a Street Ambassador Program in March to provide an alternative to the cleanups, with the coalition's team members deploying to areas a day beforehand to prepare
residents' trash for the sanitation teams in an effort to limit the invasiveness of the cleanups.
Peggy Lee Kennedy, who is on the coalition's coordinating committee, told City News Service on Tuesday that she was in Venice preparing unhoused residents for a CARE+ cleanup expected to take place along Venice Boulevard today [Wednesday].
Residents who live near the encampment say they have been reaching out to the council office for more than a year asking for help to clean the debris filled area. Neighbors say the strip of tents and tarps is littered with drugs and alcohol.
Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman introduced a motion on Jan. 12 -- which was unanimously approved by the council in April -- to have LASAN, in consultation with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, develop standards for street engagement and hygiene services ``with a preference toward voluntary compliance whenever possible.'' The motion said the city's policy should be guided by the Hippocratic oath, ``first, do not harm.
Residents who live in the Venice Special Enforcement Cleaning Zone (SECZ) say Voluntary cleanups fail the housed and unhoused.
"The difference between Bonin’s voluntary program and what he promised [comprehensive cleanups] is like the difference between night and day, said Rick Swinger, a resident in the SECZ zone and an environmental activist. “With comprehensive cleanups, they put out temporary ‘no parking’ cleanup signs so cars would move. They were able to clean the streets and sidewalks. Get into gutters and really clean up feces, drugs and urine. All the things that cause diseases and create rat infestations if not taken care of.”
Swinger says that [leftover] needles are just one example of dangerous items that are being left behind. “It doesn’t make sense. It puts everyone in harm’s way. This is impacting residents and tourists—anyone who walks in this area.”
On June 25, the Bureau of Sanitation sent the council a report on how some of the suggestions can be incorporated into its operations, and on June 30 the council instructed the bureau to resume operations citywide and incorporate the following strategies:
-- tent exchange and distribution;
-- voluntary trash disposal options;
-- sanitary kit distribution; and
-- EZ-Up tents and bottled water distribution.
LASAN told CNS that the department has incorporated those strategies into its CARE+ operations.