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LA City Considers Cleaning Up Its Homeless Encampment Cleanup Process. Here’s How It Might Change

Cal Trans workers clean trash at a bridge construction site near the concreted channel of the Arroyo Secco Creek
Cal Trans workers clean trash at a bridge construction site near the concreted channel of the Arroyo Secco Creek
David McNew/Getty Images

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Los Angeles city officials are looking at fine-tuning how waste at homelessness encampments are cleaned up by hiring more people to help with the process and re-targeting exactly when and how often certain areas get swept.

Details emerged at a hearing on Tuesday during which city sanitation leaders also shared a report on issues with the existing process. The new process would deploy regional cleanup teams who would go to the same neighborhoods, the idea being to build a relationship between the residents and those experiencing homelessness in the community. Those teams will be triaged to areas as need dictates, and neighborhoods that are harder-hit will see teams more frequently. More surveillance to catch illegal dumping would also be part of the overhaul, as sanitation officials said during the hearing that they estimate only about 20 percent of what they clean up comes from homeless encampments versus the rest, which they say is from illegal dumping.

Homeless advocate groups, many of which are part of the Services Not Sweeps coalition are lauding the plan, saying it’s a welcome response to their lobbying for changes to encampment cleanups. They say the sweeps under the current process can set people experiencing homelessness back in the process of getting off the street when,for example, key documents are accidentally lost in the fray. Business leaders who have pushed back say the plan is well-intentioned, but is little more than housekeeping for encampments and time and resources should be spent on directly addressing the housing shortage. L.A. City Councilmembers will still need to approve the proposed changes before they are implemented.

With guest host Kyle Stokes


Matt Tinoco, KPCC reporter covering housing and homelessness; he tweets @onthatbombshell