When Timothy said he was displaced by Los Angeles Police Department and LA Sanitation 53 times, I thought that number was awfully high. But for someone that has lived outside homeless for over 20 years, that is less than three times a year. I know homeless encampments that get swept monthly. A homeless man in Denver told me when the mayor was running for re-election, the city would sweep homeless camps almost daily to push them out of sight.
What is a homeless sweep? The ACLU writes: “A homeless sweep or “clean-up” is the forced disbanding of homeless encampments on public property and the removal of both homeless individuals and their property from that area. Practices may vary between cities as to how much advance notice encampments are given before a sweep and what the city does with property collected during a sweep. Homeless sweeps are costly and ineffective and make homelessness worse, not better.”
Timothy shares that during a homeless sweep, the city or CalTrans takes all of their stuff, including essential documents and needed medications. He says police will high-five each other when throwing their property away. Timothy tells a story of how the LAPD tricked them into pulling the tarp back on their tent prior saying they could go on with their day, but the trash truck was waiting to take all their belongings.
The story Timothy tells that bothers me the most is how service providers told them to pack up all of their property they wanted to take with them, and they would come back to take them into Project Roomkey, a hotel to housing program. The small community of people in the camp packed up and waited and waited and waited. A few days passed. The service providers never came back.
Timothy is a good guy who has been outside far too long. Many years ago, he made some mistakes doing drugs and hanging with the wrong crowd. Timothy ended up in prison, and when he got out, he had no place to go but the streets.
You can be judgmental of homeless people all you want, but no matter how they ended up on the streets, it takes a strong person to survive 20 years outside. I have spoken to most of the people in. this camp, and all of them have been homeless for extended periods of time, and all of them want to get out of homelessness. The problem is that the City of Los Angeles invests more in keeping homeless people out of sight than getting them the help that they need.
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