Jul 30, 2014

City, LAPD Clear Homeless From Veterans Square

The square had become home to more than 30 homeless residents, according to the American Legion.

City, LAPD Clear Homeless From Veterans Square

On Sunday morning, volunteers from local American Legion Post 206 and the conducted a brief cleanup effort at the Veterans Square Memorial at the corner of York Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

In recent months, the square had become a camp for the area's homeless, hosting up to 35 people on some days, according to Cmd. Sgt. Major Tony Howard from American Legion Post 206.

The square had also become a hot spot for drug deals, according to HHPNC member Janet Dodson, who said that volunteers witnessed one deal take place on Sunday morning.

On Friday evening, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of City Services, the homeless who had occupied the square were cleared from the area.

Howard said previous attempts to place one square resident, a Vietnam veteran named Gary Sheffield, into a homeless shelter had failed.

"We tried to get him into a program and he didn't want it," Howard said. "He thinks he has found a home."

Howard said he had also enlisted community volunteers to sit at the square throughout the coming days in order to prevent it from again becoming a homeless encampment.

Dodson said volunteers realized it would likely be impossible to find a long-term solution for the homeless occupation of the square, adding that many of those who had been removed would likely set up camps behind the in the Sycamore Grove section of Highland Park.

"These are people, there is no 'away,'" she said. "You can't just say 'take these people away.'"

However, she said volunteers were dedicated to keeping the square as clean and safe as possible.

Rebecca Prine--, a program dedicated to providing outreach services to Northeast L.A.'s homeless--said the attempt to clear the square would prove to be only a short term solution if housing wasn't secured for the residents.

"It's not going to solve the problem, that's for sure," Prine said. "For most of these people, homelessness is all they know. Until they're offered something better, they're not going to leave. They're just going to end up at some other park." 

Prine, along with Recycled Resources volunteers, visits each of Highland Park's homeless residents on a monthly basis, providing basic life amenities as well as information about homeless services in Los Angeles.

She admitted that, in many cases, the homeless she meets with, many of whom are stricken with severe mental illness or drug addition,  have no interest in going to emergency shelters.

"Many of them are not really sure what they want," Prine said.



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