Jul 26, 2014
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No Easy Answers for Highland Park's Homeless

A week after being evicted from Veterans Square Memorial, some of Highland Park's homeless are committed to returning to a place they consider home.

No Easy Answers for Highland Park's Homeless

One week after the Los Angeles Police Department cleared a homeless encampment at Highland Park's Veterans Square Memorial, occupants of the camp are stilling trying to figure out where to go next.

Among those residents are brother and sister Jacqueline and Gary Sheffield, who were among the camp's longest standing residents.

Like many of Los Angeles' homeless, the Sheffield siblings said they have found themselves facing the undesirable option of sleeping in emergency shelters on Skid Row.

Veterans Square sits at the border of Council Districts 1 and 14, and in recent months had become a steady source of complaints for constituents in both districts.

Neighbors complained that the square had become of hotspot for drug use and drug deals, and that the occupants would harass people while they waited at the nearby bus stop.

Sheffield--a Vietnam veteran who claims to have two honorable discharges--admitted that drug deals were prevalent at the square, but he stressed that the homeless were not responsible.

Instead, Sheffield said that the problems at the square were caused by "outsiders": gang members and drug dealers who came to the area to cause trouble.

, when he was one of the square's only residents. At that time, he appeared to have struck an amicable deal with both the Los Angeles Police Department and American Legion Post 206--which oversees the square.

Members of the credited him for warding off drug dealers from the memorial. He also keeps the area clean, they said. For his efforts, he was even given a key to a storage compartment inside the walls of the square's fountain.

“We have no problem with him being there, and we try to support him any way we can,” said Post 206 member Tony Howard in June.

Last week, Howard maintained that he still had no problem with Sheffield. In fact, he said that members of Post 206 had worked to secure him a bed in a homeless shelter for Veterans in Inglewood. 

"He didn't want it," Howard said.

Rebecca Prine, who runs Recycle Resources, an outreach program that delivers basic essentials and informational packets to many of Highland Park's homeless, said the lack of shelters in Northeast Los Angeles makes getting the local population off the street particular difficult.

Many of them have ties to the area, she explained. Jacqueline Sheffield has lived in Highland Park since 1984. She considers the neighborhood home and would prefer to stay. Her brother is committed to staying nearby, as well.

"Many of the people living in encampments in Highland Park were born and raised in the area. They went to school here. It doesn't make any sense to kick them out," Prine said.

Prine said that, following the eviction, most of the square's occupants would likely make their way to Highland Park's two other homeless camps, either behind in Sycamore Grove or on Marmion Way near the Gold Line stop.

Sheffield, however, asserted that he would be going back to the square--the place he considers home.

"I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I'm not afraid of consequences," he said. "I'm going back."

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