Citation clinic aims to help Hollywood homeless youth get back on their feet

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A new initiative from the city of Los Angeles is looking to connect L.A.'s homeless with services to help them get off the streets. A citation clinic was held Wednesday as part of the program, with that event targeted at homeless youth in Hollywood.

The citation clinic allowed homeless youth to have low-level citations — things like jaywalking — forgiven, either via community service or in exchange for taking advantage of housing and other services, according to a press release and L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell.

"For homeless youth, especially with all that they're up against every day, to have some sort of financial burden over their head from the city government can be a very scary, intimidating thing that really contributes to their overall stress," O'Farrell told KPCC. "These things can haunt you, and follow you, and weigh on your conscience day-to-day if you're just trying to struggle to get out from being homeless."

O'Farrell said that easing that burden can help put homeless youth on the path to getting into housing and getting a job. The community service options include things like clean-ups that O'Farrell has in his district on a regular basis, he said. He added that one thing that unemployed or underemployed young people have to offer is time rather than money.

"[The clinics] really do help those who need them most," O'Farrell said.

There are upwards of 12,000 homeless under the age of 25 in L.A., O'Farrell said, with many homeless youth congregating in Hollywood. He also noted that 40 percent of homeless youth are members of the LGBT community, who've often been discriminated against or kicked out of their homes for being who they are.

Homeless youth are often fleeing dangerous situations, O'Farrell said, while being ill-prepared to take care of themselves.

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has organized several clinics already, funded by a grant from L.A. County. O'Farrell helped to organize Wednesday's event at Covenant House, a homeless youth service provider in Hollywood. The event was the second in O'Farrell's district — he said he would welcome these clinics back to his district as often as Feuer wants to have them.

"The growing number of homeless youth in Hollywood, and across our city, is a continuing crisis we all must address," Feuer said in a press release.

"We have to do whatever it takes to stabilize their lives and help them find the road to a safe and successful adulthood," L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said in a press release.

Feuer previously held clinics in Venice, Sylmar and Long Beach, though the Hollywood clinic was the first focused on youth. So far, the clinics have reached around 2,000 homeless people, O'Farrell said, adding that he hoped that Wednesday's tally was hundreds more homeless youth.

The event also offered clothing, accessories, hygiene kits, HIV testing and other services, according to the press release. They also offered drug and rehab counseling, O'Farrell said. Other groups that partnered in Wednesday's clinic include Youth Policy Institute, Los Angeles LGBT Center and AIDS Project Los Angeles.

The citation clinics are set to continue. Aside from the clinics, O'Farrell said he's also working on the homeless youth problem in other ways, including recently working with Target. Now that construction on a Target on Sunset in Hollywood has started up again following a vote from the City Council, O'Farrell said he's trying to establish an employment pipeline allowing homeless youth to move into retail jobs.

O'Farrell said he was also trying to connect young people with new, high-tech jobs that are coming to Hollywood.

"We hope to capture as many vulnerable young people as we can into a career," O'Farrell said.

He noted that one company that's been hiring is Trailer Park, which produces movie trailers.

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