Here’s LA’s model for emergency homeless shelters

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Homeless residents will start moving in next week to the first emergency shelter builtunder a plan from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mayor celebrated the end of the shelter’s construction today, giving media tours of the cluster of trailers near El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument that will house nearly four dozen people. It’s set to be a model for similar housing centers around the city, with at least one temporary shelter promised in each of the city’s 15 council districts.

“People in desperate need,” Garcetti said, “need help now.”

The mayor also shared plans to keep the area around the shelter free of tents and makeshift encampments.

“During the daytime, we do need these sidewalks to be clear,” he said.

The shelter at El Pueblo is part of the Mayor’s A Bridge Home initiative, a program that focuses on construction of temporary housing where residents can stay while waiting for permanent residences to become available.

It’s one of the mayor’s signature efforts to combat homelessness in the city of LA, where more than 30,000 residents lack a permanent address.

In recent months, homeless outreach workers have stepped up efforts to house residents living on the streets and sidewalks around El Pueblo, where the shelter is located.

Matt Szabo, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff, says the same thing will happen at each shelter site built under the mayor’s plan in the 90 days before they open.

Thirty days after the shelters begin operating, Szabo says “intensive enforcement” of city laws preventing residents from storing items on the sidewalk will begin. Sanitation workers will also begin cleaning the area five times per week, removing any unattended items.

Homeless residents living close to the shelter “will have to take the tents down,” says Szabo.


Beds inside one of the trailers, divided by cubicle-style partitions.

Garcetti said Wednesday that the shelters are designed to accommodate the number of residents living in a given area, and that it was reasonable to assume that those who continue to camp on sidewalks after the shelters open have recently moved to the area or turned down spots in the shelter.

Orignally planned as a 60-bed facility, the shelter at El Pueblo will open with 45 beds, in part so that residents staying there will have more personal space and privacy.

Designed by Gensler, the housing center consists of five portable trailers arranged around a central wooden deck with common space for residents to dine and socialize.


Benches at El Pueblo shelter
Outdoor seating for residents.

The shelter is pet-friendly and will remain open 24 hours a day, with case managers and staff from The People Concern onsite to connect residents with necessary services, and, eventually permanent housing.

The $2.4 million facility was already underway when Garcetti announced his shelter program in March, but it’s the first project to be completed using funds from the mayor’s program.

Initially, Garcetti promised to spend $20 million building at least one temporary shelter in each of the city’s council districts. Since then, the budget for A Bridge Home has increased to $30 million, with as much as $45 million more on the way from the state.

But proposed shelter sites have provoked outcries from residents in several communities. In Koreatown, resident opposition to a shelter planned near the Wilshire/Vermont subway station was fierce enough that Los Angeles City Councilmember Herb Wesson, who represents the area, is now pursuing two other sites instead.

Shelter locations proposed in Venice, San Pedro, and Wilmington sparked similar complaints.

Szabo says that neighbors are often concerned that shelters will bring more homeless residents to the area, leading to more trash on city streets. That’s one reason, he says, the city is committing to aggressive enforcement and frequent cleanups.

“We are going to provide the resources to ensure that does not happen,” Szabo says. “Until [the public] sees this stuff work, they’re not going to believe that facilities for the homeless are not going to attract the homeless.”

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument

125 Paseo De La Plz # 400, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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