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LA proposes temporary trailers to house the homeless

Antonio Garcia, 27, has been homeless in Van Nuys for about two years.
Antonio Garcia, 27, has been homeless in Van Nuys for about two years. "I'm trying to hang in here," Garcia says. He's focused on teaching and helping homeless youth struggling with addiction.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

It's no secret Los Angeles has a problem housing the many people who have to live outdoors. There are currently 25,000 unsheltered homeless in the city, according to the latest estimates from Mayor Garcetti's office.

And even though voters approved $1.2 billion in bonds to help build them permanent housing, it takes time. So on Tuesday, the L.A. City Council will consider a proposal to use a downtown L.A. parking lot for temporary trailers.

Matt Szabo is Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Garcetti. He joined Take Two's A Martinez to talk about the new proposal.

The plan to install temporary trailers to house L.A. homeless

We have a crisis on our streets and sidewalks right now, so this proposal is the first of many working with City Council  to site and build temporary shelters so we can get those that are unsheltered and living on the street into shelter and into services while we wait for the permanent housing to be built.

Where the trailers will be located

This particular project, the strategy the mayor identified, is that so often, as any homeless outreach worker would tell you, it takes multiple, dozens in fact, contacts with unsheltered homeless to convince them to seek shelter because the shelters are concentrated downtown. If someone is in the valley or in Hollywood, it might not be easy to convince someone to seek shelter in an area they're not familiar with. This is the first project to bring the shelter to the homeless encampment. This is focused on the El Pueblo area of downtown, using a parking lot for El Pueblo, with five trailers. These trailers are in the style of the temporary office buildings you see at construction sites.

How the trailers will be used

Three are for housing. They can hold up to 60 people. One will be for showers, bathrooms, storage, etc., and one will be an office for the services we're providing.

How the homeless can apply to live there

The intent of this project is for the Homeless Services Authority, they will contract with a nonprofit that will do extensive outreach to the surrounding community, and they will determine who gets in. This won't be a walk-up shelter but a shelter where folks from the surrounding encampments will be reached out to and placed in the shelter. Once they're in the shelter, they'll receive mental health and drug treatment services and housing placement services to get into permanent housing.

Temporary housing is a building block for permanent housing

In the mayor's view, this is absolutely necessary. We can't wait for two years when anyone who walks the streets of L.A. knows it's a humanitarian crisis. We have people living on the street and the mayor believes it's more humane to provide shelter, even if it's temporary, to get them into housing and get a second chance. It's a complimentary strategy to the permanent housing ultimate strategy.

The roll-out plan for permanently housing the homeless

Right now, the voters approved a $1.2 billion bond. In the first year of that bond, we have funded 440 units. That bond will support up to 10,000 units. Those projects are underway. One project near downtown in the East Hollywood area has broken ground, and we'll be rolling out those projects as soon as we can get the ground broken. You should see those projects up and running in the next few years. But again, the temporary shelter strategy is to deal with the problem and the crisis we have right now. We can't wait three years for the permanent housing to be built. We need to provide shelter right now.