The Hope of Mayor Garcetti

by Amelia Anderson

No wonder Mayor Garcetti got elected! Shouldering 40 years of inaction, he’s given new hope to both the homeless and the families of our community. His latest program metamorphoses the public into units of “HOPE TEAMS”, standing for Homeless Outreach Partnership Endeavor, Social Service trained units to better allow them to treat humanely the homeless population, and to better deal with their health, mental and addictive problems.

First rolled out in the San Fernando Valley last May and later to the other three police bureaus throughout the city, each of the teams consist of a city sanitation crew, a homeless outreach team from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and police officers trained in dealing with the homeless population and city rules for dismantling encampments.

Commander Todd Chamberlain said the LAPD has been working closely with LAWSA, a joint city and county agency that provides services to the homeless to make sure the HOPE teams are not “based solely on enforcement.”

“We’re kind of right in the middle” Chamberlain says, “Because some groups think we do too much….agressively. On the other side, there’s community groups, businesses who say we do too little. So, for the enforcement we try to handle this social problem in as effective, constitutional and ethical way.”

The city’s previous policy for removing encampments and debris from sidewalks was challenged in court, so the city adopted revisions that still allow encampments to be taken down but provide more notification to the homeless, prevent city officials from throwing away certain personal belongings or medicine and allow the homeless to keep up to a 60 gallon bin’s worth of belongings with them, as long as the items are personally attended.

HEALTHY STREETS, attached, are the new guidelines governing our streets. So, please, let’s all work together to keep streets healthy and safe. You may call the HOPE team by dialing 311 or 911 for removal of encampment. Bear in mind this is to schedule an appointment at a given location — this is not emergency service. HOPE work hours are 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. Remember, warmer weather fewer beds. Winter shelter closing eliminated 1,259 beds from the county system, forcing hundreds back on the street. So far this year, the San Fernando Valley HOPE team joined the LA Bureau of Sanitation on 54 cleanups and placed 4 people into shelters. Contacting 144 people who were homeless, 82 refused services. Data showed 30 suffered from mental illness and 54 were experiencing substance abuse. Up here in SunlandTujunga the HOPE team has provided invaluable help to both our lead officers and our outreach advocates by providing a safe ‘no arrest zone’ particularly when working with couples and waiting for transitional beds to vacate, motel vouchers to arrive, or Section Vlll housing negotiations to complete.

In a nod to homeowners, our streets have been mapped and color coded to delineate streets that can be acceptably parked on by homeless living in cars or campers, both during the day and at night. Not within 500 feet of parks or schools. And not most residential streets. Flyers are Posted at North Valley City Hall, 7747 Foothill, the Councilman’s Office is to the left.

But if you are homeless and want housing, come Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. sharp (to 12 p.m.) to the end of the right hall and sign up with Eric Montoya, outreach director for LA Family Housing. Have a CA ID, proof of Income plus a phone. There’s a point system so only use county hospitals like Olive View, Hillview or Tarzana. Interview to get on the CES computer.

A new “jail in-reach” program was instituted in January to help connect inmates who will be out shortly and homeless, to needed services. The department is also beginning a pilot program that supplies officers with Narcan, a substance that is used to reverse drug overdoses. Garcetti claims to have the solution, “but it’s not a sprint— it’s a long distance race!”

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