On March 20, Councilman Mike Bonin announced that the Palisades Recreation Center was one of 42 that had been selected to house the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pacific Palisades Community Council, the Pacific Palisades Residents Association and several residents sent letters to Mayor Eric Garcetti and to Bonin asking about that wisdom of that decision.
Circling the News had also pointed out that the Palisades Rec Center had several sewage spills during the summer and that the bathrooms had never been upgraded to handicapped accessible.
Residents wanted to know if the homeless transported to Pacific Palisades would be tested before being housed in the recreation centers. Would the homeless be required to stay in the shelter or if would they be free to come and go into the community?
Residents also wanted to know if the gym would be segregated to hold only families, or only women or only youth or only the mentally ill or only drug users.
Residents wanted to know if once the program was over, would the homeless be taken back to the location they were brought from or would they just be released to the community.
At one time, Pacific Palisades had a major problem with the homeless, which led to the formation of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness in 2016. The community raised funds to hire two social workers who began working with homeless people here, and through dedicated efforts over four years, most have been housed or moved.
The program has proved to one one of the most successful in Los Angeles, but when Garcetti decided to move the homeless here during the pandemic, the PPTFH was never consulted.
CTN was told that the City was legally obligated to get approval from the Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners to use the Recreation Center, but that has not happened at any of the recreation centers.
PPRA President Sarah Conner said that another group had sent a letter to City Attorney Mike Feurer today (Wednesday) alerting him to possible litigation from homeless groups or neighbors who can demonstrate disproportionate viral spread from within or nearby the Recreation Centers.
In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control are advising cities to leave homeless people on the streets.
Business Insider wrote on March 24 (in a story headlined “The CDC Is Advising Cities Like San Francisco to Leave People on the Streets During Coronavirus Outbreaks if Shelters Cannot Meet Social Distancing Guidance”), “New guidelines from the … CDC provide further direction on how to respond to the virus and its effects on unsheltered individuals in the U.S. The most stand-out measure is to halt homeless encampment sweeps and to not move homeless individuals into temporary housing units unless they have space to social distance once inside.”
On the CDC website, under preventive measures for the homeless, it states:
- Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.
- Encourage people staying in encampments to set up their tents/sleeping quarters with at least 12 feet x 12 feet of space per individual.
- Ensure nearby restroom facilities have functional water taps, are stocked with hand hygiene materials (soap, drying materials) and bath tissue, and remain open to people experiencing homelessness 24 hours per day.
- If toilets or handwashing facilities are not available nearby, provide access to portable latrines with handwashing facilities for encampments of more than 10 people.
The PPCC received a response yesterday (Tuesday) from Lisa Payne, Mayor Garcetti’s Director of Public Engagement, who wrote: “We have embarked on this plan based on guidance from the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) officials, who have shared with the City that community transmission through encampments poses a greater threat to general public health than through bringing individuals indoors into controlled environments with hygiene facilities and rigorous health monitoring.”
She added, “We are working closely with DPH to move those individuals who are found to be symptomatic to another location. We will be moving people who are found to be symptomatic to another location.
“The plan is to house people at the sites for as long as public health officials advise us that it is in the best interests of public health to do so. The City will fully sanitize the sites before it is again open to the public.”
The PPCC responded in a letter today: “One of our community’s principal concerns — as repeatedly expressed at public Palisades Park Advisory Board meetings — is the unsanitary and inadequate condition of the facility’s bathrooms (described briefly in Question/Consideration #13 of our letter).
“Can you please explain how the City will address these issues (plumbing in disrepair, frequent back-ups, lack of hot water and no showers)? Will the City endeavor to repair these conditions prior to bringing in unsheltered individuals? Or will the bathrooms be closed (to prevent back-ups) and alternate hygiene facilities be provided, e.g., Porta-potties, portable hand-washing stations and showers?”
The question that no one appears to be asking the City is why it is not following the CDC’s recommendation regarding the homeless.