To: Mayor Eric Garcetti
City Council President Nury Martinez
CC:Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Paul Krekorian, Bob Blumenfield, David E. Ryu, Paul Koretz, Monica Rodriguez, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren D. Price Jr., Herb J. Wesson Jr., Mike Bonin, John Lee, Mitch O’Farrell, Jose Huizar, Joe Buscaino, Acting Executive Director of LAHSA Heidi Marston
A Moratorium on Sweeps to Protect The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
An Open Letter from Ktown for All
Dear Mayor Garcetti, Council President Martinez, and Others,
We’re writing to you out of a concern for the integrity of LAHSA’s annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, scheduled to run from January 21st through January 23rd. In the past week, there have been several major sweeps at large homeless encampments in several districts. With just over a week before the count is set to begin, these enforcement actions create additional problems above and beyond their typical damaging impact on the lives of homeless individuals. Specifically, sweeps requested by local politicians are creating potential problems for the integrity and political neutrality of the count. This is not just an issue heading towards the larger count; LAHSA’s demographic survey is currently underway, meaning that encampment sweeps are already undermining this research.
In the interest of maintaining the accuracy and integrity of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, we demand a moratorium on enforcement actions aimed at clearing camps or confiscating property. Any sweeps between now and the conclusion of surveying activities necessarily disrupt the accuracy of the count. Moreover, the involvement of individual council offices in determining the locations and extent of LAPD/LASAN encampment enforcement creates a conflict of interest for Councilmembers, calling into question the motivations for ordering these cleanup operations.
Recently, emails became public showing that several councilmembers are pushing the Department of Sanitation to take a more aggressive enforcement posture during encampment cleanups, aimed at removing property and enforcing tent rules. When paired with last week’s action in the Sepulveda Basin, which displaced at least 100 homeless residents, and today’s Echo Park Lake operation displacing 60 people, Ktown for All is deeply concerned that LA’s City Council is using strategically timed and targeted encampment cleanups to alter the homeless count by reducing the number of homeless people in their districts temporarily.
This is not a new concern. In 2019, on the same day as the homeless count, a sweep was conducted at the largest encampment in Koreatown near 4th Street and Shatto Place. This cleanup led to the confiscation of at least five tents and the displacement of several residents. Given the location of this encampment just blocks from the border between CD13 and CD10, the result was to push people from one district into another. Whether or not these actions prior to the count are politically driven or not, the proximity to the count creates the perception that City Councilmembers are attempting to game the homeless count estimates to improve perceptions of their performance in office.
Heidi Marston, Acting Director of LAHSA, was recently quoted in an ABC7 story on the Homeless Count, noting “homelessness is dynamic and it changes day over day, year over year, so doing this count helps us see who are the people that are experiencing homelessness, how have their needs changed year over year so we can make sure we’re aligning our resources to best address those needs.” The integrity of the count is a crucial part of planning homeless services for the following year, and for tracking changes over time. The purpose of the homeless count is to provide accurate figures for local, state, and federal planning, which justifies the $1.5 million taxpayers spend conducting the count each year. When cleanups in the immediate run up to the count significantly alter the makeup of existing encampments, it creates questions about the accuracy of the numbers generated, undermining this expensive and important program.
We do not want to see services like mobile bathroom provisions and trash pickups disrupted. These do not create problems for the count, and do in fact address concerns raised by both housed and unhoused residents of Los Angeles. However, sweeps at this time are inappropriate and disruptive.
As the city’s leaders on homelessness, it falls on you to ensure the integrity of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. We implore you to cancel planned sweeps in the run up to this event, so that Los Angeles can have the most accurate possible understanding of our city’s greatest problem.
Ktown for All
Sign onto this letter at tinyurl.com/signcensusnotsweeps
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