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LA Metro to weigh expansion of homeless service efforts

FILE: Teams of social workers have been dispatched to the Red Line to help connect the homeless to services. Metro is considering an expansion of the teams.
FILE: Teams of social workers have been dispatched to the Red Line to help connect the homeless to services. Metro is considering an expansion of the teams.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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Los Angeles County's growing homelessness crisis isn’t just visible on the streets, it’s also obvious on public transit, and that's prompting the agency in charge of operating trains and buses to expand efforts to address the issue.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will consider a proposal to add mobile shower stations to some transit stops and features like hand sanitizer to buses and trains. The agency is also studying whether Metro facilities, like bus yards, could be used for temporary housing.

Last year, the transit agency took steps to help the homeless who ride transit and hang out at its stations. It sent out teams of social workers to the Red Line and hopes to expand the program systemwide.

For regular Metro riders like Renee Jimenez, who travels the Red Line subway between Hollywood and downtown L.A., the homeless are unavoidable.

"Big problem, especially early in the morning, they’re always asleep, taking up more than one seat," Jimenez said.

For Metro, aiding the homeless is not only the right thing to do, it’s a business decision. Transit ridership has been declining and riders often complain about lack of cleanliness and safety issues when it comes to the homeless.

"Because of the body odor, and I see some with mental issues, you know," said Jimenez.

The board takes up the homeless issue on Thursday at its monthly meeting at Metro headquarters, starting at 9 a.m.