ALERT: Homeless camps face eviction by LA police, officials say

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 13 May 1999 19:33:28 -0700 (PDT)


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http://www.latimes.com/excite/990508/tCB0040641.html
FWD  Los Angeles Times - Sat May 8, 1999 [California, USA]

     SUNLAND HOMELESS CAMPS FACE EXTINCTION

     Perceived fire hazard and complaints from community
     start movement to relocate those living in encampments.

     By Claudia Peschiutta

SUNLAND-TUJUNGA -- "Jurassic Park,"so-called by the self-described "old
dinosaurs" that live there, and other homeless encampments in the
Sunland-Tujunga area may soon become extinct.

The fires that help provide warmth and food to those living in shacks or
tent camps tucked in among the foothills pose a serious fire hazard to
residents, officials say. A rising number of complaints has led to a
movement to relocate the homeless people who have come to consider these
camps home.

Started in early March, the effort consists of local law enforcement and
fire department officials and members of several social service
organizations in the area. It is coordinated by the Sunland-Tujunga field
office of Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs.

The goal is to eliminate the most established homeless encampments in
Sunland-Tujunga by July 1, which officials have designated as no more than
a tentative deadline.

Jurassic Park, which lies in the hills above the Foothill (210) Freeway,
and another encampment, near Tujunga Canyon Boulevard, have been identified
as the largest, most entrenched camps, with other smaller, less permanent
ones scattered throughout the area.

Brush inspector Ken Brondell of the Los Angeles City Fire Department said
rampant vegetation makes the foothills a high fire hazard area.

"When summer comes on, these camp fires have the potential of spreading
into the wild," he said.

But Benny Collon, a homeless man who first came to Jurassic Park two years
ago, said everyone in the camp is careful when making fires.

"There has never been a fire out of control," he said, adding that
extinguishers and water are kept nearby.

Brondell said he did not know of any major fires in the area having been
sparked by the camp fires, but added that does not mean there haven't been
any.

Besides the perceived fire hazards, trespassing allegations may bring an
early eviction date to the residents of Jurassic Park because the camp is
said to be on private property.

Collon and others said police told them earlier this week they had until
Friday to leave the site.

Sgt. Bob Kirk of the Los Angeles Police Department Foothill Division said a
trespass warrant authorization -- enabling police to arrest camp residents
for trespassing -- has been issued but that an immediate sweep is unlikely.

In Jurassic Park and beyond, officials have said their main objective is
not to kick the homeless out of the encampments but to provide them with
resources to help them relocate.

John Horn, a program coordinator for the Los Angeles Family Housing
Corporation, said the organization will continue sending a mobile unit,
which offers medical attention, housing assistance and other services, to
Sunland Park twice a month as long as there is a need.

"Our goal is to not let July 1 come without having spoken to every homeless
person in the area," he said.

However, Horn, like others, does not expect the issue to resolve itself
before then.

"I wouldn't tell people to harbor any illusions that come July 1, they're
not going to have any homeless people in Sunland-Tujunga," he said.

But, while some would like to see the local homeless encampments
eradicated, others feel they should be left alone.

Sunland resident Amanda Headlee, 18, has befriended Collon and other
homeless people in Sunland Park and is angry that they may be forced out of
the camps.

"That's their home," she said. "It sucks because they're not hurting anyone."

AVAILABLE RESOURCES FOR THE HOMELESS
* Los Angeles Housing Corp, in Sun Valley, 503-9589.
* People in Progress, Sun Valley, 768-7494.
* San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, Van Nuys, 785-4476.

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
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