The recent spate of negative press attention on LA’s trash and rat infestation problem has apparently lit a fire under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Last week, LA committed an additional $6.5 million for homeless clean-up efforts. The additional money will fund 10 new crews with nearly 50 new sanitation workers. From LA Daily News:
The council allocated more than $6.5 million to the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to cover costs of hygiene and health services, cleanup teams that will target high-need areas, bathroom and shower stations and more…
The teams will receive specialized mental health training and deliver public health resources, including daily trash collection and mobile restrooms to homeless communities.
The plan will increase the number of city sanitation teams from 20 to 30, creating 47 sanitation jobs. The program will also include training of some homeless people who will be paid for taking part in cleanup efforts.
The effort to have regular trash collection at homeless sites, as if they were permanent homes, has been tried in Seattle with mixed success. The amount of garbage that gets turned in by the camps is a fraction of the total mess created by tent camps on the street.
Activists in LA are working to prevent police from being involved in garbage sweeps. The city’s sanitation director says police are needed because the homeless sometimes present a threat to his clean up crews. But the activists seem to be concerned that having police around could lead to arrests (for drugs, for stolen merchandise, outstanding warrants, etc.).
In any case, there are signs that the attitude in LA has shifted. The LA Times reported today there were plans for a major clean up of the area around City Hall:
The area includes a block on 1st Street between Broadway and Spring, where at least 15 tents have been put up by homeless people occupying the sidewalk in front of a fenced-in empty lot next to a portion of Grand Park used for parking during scheduled events.
The flyer states a “major cleaning” will take place that includes sidewalks, alleys, parks, beaches, parking lots and other public access areas.
The city’s existing sanitation teams got a workout last week after the mayor got a call from NBC 4 telling him about 12 tons of trash in the fashion district which had become a breeding ground for rats. Thanks to the pressure from NBC 4, this massive mess was finally cleaned up, at least for now.
Finally, here’s Dr. Drew Pinsky sounding the alarm. When you have lots of garbage and lots of rats living adjacent to lots of homeless people, what comes next is serious diseases: