How stop eviction of homeless encampments?

Tom Boland (
Sun, 23 May 1999 02:13:51 -0700 (PDT)

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How can we best deter or stop eviction of homeless encampments?

When evictions do occur, what opportunities might arise for building poor
people's movements?

For a related article, see below:
FWD  Los Angeles Times [California, USA] - Saturday, May 22, 1999


  Lifestyle: Some called 'Jurassic Park' home for 10 years. But the
  property's owner decided to have the land in Sunland cleared.

  By ANNETTE KONDO, Times Staff Writer

They called it home, this tree-shaded gulch next to a creek.

For a decade, and probably longer, homeless residents had created a
commune-like cluster of plywood-and-tarp huts, built side by side in a
hidden glade near the Foothill Freeway.

Communal breakfasts and dinners were served from a central mess tent
equipped with an outdoor grill and makeshift stove. A hanging tire
provided children with recreation, a discarded tub was recycled for
outdoor bathing.

Residents pooled weekly money for groceries and sundries, one person
was assigned fire detail, and the community handled problems by
democratic consensus.

"We were a family. It all worked," said recent inhabitant Charles
Bolin, a 50-year-old Vietnam veteran. "If someone didn't get along, we
had a vote and kicked them out."

But on Friday, "Jurassic Park," as the inhabitants affectionately
called it, had become extinct. No trespassing signs were posted on the
private land Thursday and those of the encampment's 14 residents who
remained were told to leave immediately.

The property owner, Joyce Majors, has hired a contractor to clear the
area of brush and structures on Monday, said Pat Davenport, a deputy to
Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs. Majors could not be reached for

The rural homeless encampment was one of several in the Sunland and
Tujunga area that generated complaints from nearby residents in recent
months. Because of brush fire danger, city fire officials recommended a
July 1 deadline to close all the encampments, some of them nestled deep
in Little and Big Tujunga canyons.

When the complaints reached Wachs' office, several social agencies
were contacted to try to find alternative housing and services for the
homeless, Davenport said.

;A meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, when the homeless will be
transported to Finn Park in Tujunga to meet with shelter and social
service agencies. The hope, officials said, is to avoid displacing people
to the streets when all the camps are closed.

Bolin questioned why Jurassic Park, which he said has kept the
homeless "out of sight and out of mind" for 12 years, has only recently
been viewed as a fire and public health hazard.

Bolin's friend, Noel Johnson, 56, who used to visit fellow homeless at
the encampment, said most of the inhabitants do not have enough money for
an apartment, and, like Bolin, do not want to live in a shelter.

"A great many of them want to continue to camp out and not pay rent,"
Davenport said. "The problem is, where is that acceptable? And I don't
have an answer for that."

Jurassic Park, so-named, Bolin said, for the area's abundant deer,
rabbits, coyotes and other "natural critters," was home to three married
couples and a former Vietnam War medic.

Family-style meals of stew, rice and beans, even chicken and
dumplings, were cooked up in the mess tent.

But on Friday, the village was ghostly silent.

Tiny footbridges spanned the now-dry creek, leading to a 50-foot-long
complex of shelters. Across from the creek, an outdoor "living room" was
set up complete with area rugs and a plywood table.

An odd assortment of castoff chairs in a variety of fabrics--ochre,
brown velour, floral, beige geometric--seemed ready for guests.

Everything--Coleman lanterns, old pans, tarps, children's toys--was
recycled and re-recycled.

A few weeks ago, some of the homeless, aware of the camp's impending
closure, were visited by police officers and city officials.

Some decided to leave, lining up a dozen suitcases on the street. A
truck picked up the people and their possessions, but no one interviewed
Friday knew who hired it or where it went.

Don Muniz, a Los Angeles police officer familiar with the area, said
he remembered residents such as "Benny," who had been at the camp for 10

At one point, Benny left to take care of a friend who was terminally
ill, Muniz said, but after his friend's death Benny ended up back at
Jurassic Park.

Some residents have known of the encampment for years. Muniz and
others speculated that they thought Caltrans owned the freeway-adjacent
property or that no one knew how to track down the private landowner.

Jurassic Park's demise has put the homeless closer to local businesses
and neighbors.

"In my opinion, it will make them more visible," Muniz said. "Now they
will be there in the city constantly. For a while we will get more calls
about them living in doorways and sleeping in parking lots."

For Bolin, who shuns shelters, the future is uncertain.

With just a few minutes to leave, he said he packed up only his most
precious possessions, including the American flag from his Army company
in Vietnam. He wondered if he should risk going back to get a tent.

"Maybe it's a push to get us to do something," he said of the
encampment's closure. "I don't know. Maybe it will push us down farther."


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
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