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Crisis in Koreatown: Exclusive photos of homeless encampment in bustling Los Angeles neighborhood

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The homelessness crisis gripping Los Angeles is no longer confined to Skid Row but has spread rapidly to other areas of the city, including Koreatown, where residents are furious over a 50-person encampment that has hurt local businesses and turned away shoppers put off by urine and feces on the sidewalks – including in front of a preschool.

DailyMail.com obtained exclusive photos on Wednesday revealing tents and blue tarps lining the streets with garbage and human excrement along the intersection of Vermont Avenue and 4th Street.

The images show a neighborhood in complete disarray, with shopping carts, old luggage bags, broke-down bicycles and other detritus littering the streets and sidewalks. Graffiti can be seen scrawled across one of the makeshift tents, while an American flag flies limply overhead on a makeshift flagpole. 

In another photo, a man can be seen working on one of many bicycles in the homeless encampment, right nearby the now-infamous ‘wall of bicycles.’ 

DailyMail.com obtained exclusive photos on Wednesday revealing makeshift tents and blue tarps lining the streets with garbage and human excrement along the intersection of Vermont Avenue and 4th Street

DailyMail.com obtained exclusive photos on Wednesday revealing makeshift tents and blue tarps lining the streets with garbage and human excrement along the intersection of Vermont Avenue and 4th Street

A woman stands inside the homeless encampment in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood

A woman stands inside the homeless encampment in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood

The images show a neighborhood in complete disarray, with shopping carts, old luggage bags, broke-down bicycles and other detritus littering the streets and sidewalks

The images show a neighborhood in complete disarray, with shopping carts, old luggage bags, broke-down bicycles and other detritus littering the streets and sidewalks

Graffiti can be seen scrawled across one of the makeshift tents, while trash lines the sidewalk

Graffiti can be seen scrawled across one of the makeshift tents, while trash lines the sidewalk

Part of the now-infamous 'wall of bicycles' can be seen along 4th Street by Vermont Avenue

Part of the now-infamous ‘wall of bicycles’ can be seen along 4th Street by Vermont Avenue

An American flag flies limply overhead on a makeshift flagpole at the homeless encampment on the intersection of Vermont Ave and 4th St. in Los Angeles, CA

An American flag flies limply overhead on a makeshift flagpole at the homeless encampment on the intersection of Vermont Ave and 4th St. in Los Angeles, CA

Meanwhile, actor James Wood retweeted a video showing the homeless encampment that has grown since April, according to locals. 

The encampment, which is easily recognizable thanks to the aforementioned ‘wall of bicycles’ that was built nearby by a homeless artist over the course of nine months, is located just outside of a shopping area that includes a Sizzler restaurant.

Homelessness has become a growing problem in cities nationwide, including Washington, D.C., where a homeless man was rushed to a hospital after city workers bulldozed his tent with him still inside on Monday. 

Residents and business owners in Koreatown, meanwhile, have complained about the safety risk posed by the tower of bicycles, which has arguably become an eyesore of a landmark.

Businesses in the neighborhood, like the Sizzler pictured above, say the encampment has turned away shoppers who are put off by the urine and feces on the sidewalks

Businesses in the neighborhood, like the Sizzler pictured above, say the encampment has turned away shoppers who are put off by the urine and feces on the sidewalks

A man works on a bicycle in the homeless encampment in Koreatown, which is easily recognizable thanks to the 'wall of bicycles'

A man works on a bicycle in the homeless encampment in Koreatown, which is easily recognizable thanks to the ‘wall of bicycles’ 

Actor James Wood retweeted a video showing a homeless encampment in Koreatown that has grown since April, according to locals

Actor James Wood retweeted a video showing a homeless encampment in Koreatown that has grown since April, according to locals

Actor James Wood retweeted a video showing a homeless encampment in Koreatown that has grown since April, according to locals

The encampment, which is easily recognizable thanks to the 'wall of bicycles' that was built nearby by a homeless artist, is located just outside of a shopping area that includes a Sizzler restaurant

The encampment, which is easily recognizable thanks to the ‘wall of bicycles’ that was built nearby by a homeless artist, is located just outside of a shopping area that includes a Sizzler restaurant

City officials have said that they have engaged the homeless at the encampment at least 50 times over the course of recent months

City officials have said that they have engaged the homeless at the encampment at least 50 times over the course of recent months

Tents, pieces of wood, cardboard, chairs, and debris are seen above at the encampment in Koreatown

Tents, pieces of wood, cardboard, chairs, and debris are seen above at the encampment in Koreatown

Tents, pieces of wood, cardboard, chairs, and debris are seen above at the encampment in Koreatown

Local business owners have complained that the encampment has depressed foot traffic and hurt the economy

Local business owners have complained that the encampment has depressed foot traffic and hurt the economy

A tent in Koreatown

An American flag is seen attached to a tent in Koreatown

The image on the left shows a tent in Koreatown. The image on the right shows an American flag is seen attached to a tent in Koreatown

The images above show the before (left) and after (right) photos of the encampment, where a 'wall of bicycles' art exhibit was built by a homeless artist
The images above show the before (left) and after (right) photos of the encampment, where a 'wall of bicycles' art exhibit was built by a homeless artist

The images above show the before (left) and after (right) photos of the encampment, where a ‘wall of bicycles’ art exhibit was built by a homeless artist

Others say they have lost business due to their proximity of the encampment. 

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 homeless people in Los Angeles County, with 41,000 within LA city limits, including thousands on Skid Row, according to the city’s most recent homeless count. The city’s estimated homeless population is second only to New York’s.

While the homeless population was once largely confined to the notorious Skid Row neighborhood in downtown, rows of tents, cardboard shelters, battered RVs and makeshift plywood structures are now familiar sights throughout the nation’s second-most populous city.

Koreatown residents told KABC-TV that the homeless residents in the encampment on the corner of West 4th Street and Vermont Avenue urinate and defecate in front of stores and shops.

‘I have a few who have left our practice,’ Dr. Charisma Lasan, who works at a dental office across the street from the encampment, told CBSLA. ‘They actually came and turned around and just went home, after they saw that happened outside.’

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 homeless people in Los Angeles County, with 41,000 within LA city limits, according to the city's most recent homeless count

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 homeless people in Los Angeles County, with 41,000 within LA city limits, according to the city’s most recent homeless count

The city is planning to clear out a homeless encampment that has sprung up in nearby MacArthur Park. The planned ‘rehabilitation’ of the area is scheduled to begin on October 15

The city is planning to clear out a homeless encampment that has sprung up in nearby MacArthur Park. The planned ‘rehabilitation’ of the area is scheduled to begin on October 15

Some 45 tenants have taken up residence in the encampment on the south side of the park

Some 45 tenants have taken up residence in the encampment on the south side of the park

The city plans to shutter that section of the park for 10 weeks, during which the homeless population won’t be allowed to remain

The city plans to shutter that section of the park for 10 weeks, during which the homeless population won’t be allowed to remain

‘For their own safety, they’re not safe,’ Felix Guevara, a resident who lives near the encampment, said. ‘Anything can happen to them. Nobody cares about them. But the city is responsible.’

‘They have received the money already to help them and they haven’t done anything,’ Guevara said.

Koreatown is just one of several homelessness hotspots throughout Los Angeles, where city lawmakers are coming under increasing pressure from residents to address the crisis.

In Hollywood, a homeless encampment has sprung up just outside each entrance of a preschool that serves 65 children between the ages of 18 months and five years old.

Parents who send their children to Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool have pleaded with city officials to address the problem, which they say has prevented them from walking their kids to school because the sidewalks are blocked.

Staffers at the school, which is part of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, have also complained, telling KABC-TV that the encampment just steps away poses a safety risk.

‘We have had to stop walking to school because the sidewalks are blocked and it’s become too dangerous to go into traffic,’ said Ali White, a parent of a three-year-old enrolled at the school.

‘And you don’t have an option to go into the gutter because it is filled with human excrement, needles.’ 

In Hollywood, a homeless encampment has sprung up just outside each entrance of a preschool that serves 65 children between the ages of 18 months and five years old

In Hollywood, a homeless encampment has sprung up just outside each entrance of a preschool that serves 65 children between the ages of 18 months and five years old

Parents who send their children to Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool have pleaded with city officials to address the problem, which they say has prevented them from walking their kids to school because the sidewalks are blocked

Parents who send their children to Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool have pleaded with city officials to address the problem, which they say has prevented them from walking their kids to school because the sidewalks are blocked

The image above shows plastic bags, clothes, bottles, cans, garbage bags, and other debris outside the school

The image above shows plastic bags, clothes, bottles, cans, garbage bags, and other debris outside the school

The school, which has a capacity of 90 children, says the encampment has hurt enrollment.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell told KABC-TV that his office was working with the Sanitation Department to get the sidewalks cleaned up and safe.

The city is also planning to clear out a homeless encampment that has sprung up in nearby MacArthur Park. The planned ‘rehabilitation’ of the area is scheduled to begin on October 15.

Some 45 tenants have taken up residence in the encampment on the south side of the park. The city plans to shutter that section for 10 weeks, during which the homeless population won’t be allowed to remain.

City officials have been gradually removing residents of the encampment over a period of months, as they are determined to avoid a repeat of what happened at the Echo Park homeless encampments in March.

Dozens of people were arrested as city officials cleared the park earlier this year, and protests by hundreds of advocates for the homeless were staged over the course of two days.

Los Angeles Police Department officers said protesters used ‘high-intensity’ lights to try to blind them, which led police to declare an unlawful assembly. Officers then used non-lethal means to disperse the crowd.

Los Angeles sanitation services and the LAPD conducted a massive clean-up in July to remove homeless encampments from the Venice Beach boardwalk

Los Angeles sanitation services and the LAPD conducted a massive clean-up in July to remove homeless encampments from the Venice Beach boardwalk

Furious residents and shop owners told DailyMail.com that the clean-up was 'all for show'

Furious residents and shop owners told DailyMail.com that the clean-up was ‘all for show’

Less than a week after the clean-up efforts, the homeless were back setting up their tents and swarming the tourist-filled boardwalk

Less than a week after the clean-up efforts, the homeless were back setting up their tents and swarming the tourist-filled boardwalk

Mohammad Natsche, the artist who built the ‘wall of bicycles’ in Koreatown, told KABC-TV that he collected the bikes while living on the streets over the course of nine months.

Homeless man is taken to hospital after workers clearing encampment in Washington DC bulldozed his tent while he’s still inside it

Heavy machinery being used to clear a homeless encampment under an overpass in Washington DC on Monday bulldozed a tent with a homeless man still inside, trapped and screaming. 

DC’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that its crews had checked each of the tents for residents, but unbeknownst to them, one remained, and was picked up by a Bobcat front-loader machine they were using to clear the camp. 

The homeless man, who was not identified, was taken to a hospital for evaluation, but suffered no visible injuries, officials said. 

Heavy machinery clearing a homeless encampment in Washington DC picked up a tent (pictured) with a man still inside Monday

Heavy machinery clearing a homeless encampment in Washington DC picked up a tent (pictured) with a man still inside Monday 

Witnesses said the man started screaming when the front-loader machine began lifting up the tent

Witnesses said the man started screaming when the front-loader machine began lifting up the tent

Witnesses said the machine had been pushing the tents off the sidewalk under an overpass on the city’s L Street when they began to hear screaming from one of the tents. 

In the moments after, homeless advocates reportedly began rushing over to help the man, leading to a tense encounter with city officials and police on the scene. 

‘Across the street, we heard the man yelling, but they didn’t hear him when they were right next to them so we jumped over the things on the sidewalk to get to him,’ Yonce X, one of the advocates on the scene told WTOP.  

Some tried to push past police trying to get to the man, and one woman was reportedly dragged away by officers, the station reported. 

The incident led to a tense encounter between police and homeless advocates on the scene

The incident led to a tense encounter between police and homeless advocates on the scene 

The man did not suffer visible injuries, but was transported to a hospital for evaluation

The man did not suffer visible injuries, but was transported to a hospital for evaluation

‘They had to cut a hole to make sure this person was okay and they brought in the fire department who actually got him out,’ Andrew Anderson an advocate with the non-profit People for Fairness Coalition, told WUSA9. ‘They didn’t actually take any time to make sure anyone was in there, they just grabbed the tents and took them out.’

The incident prompted the city to pause its homeless encampment removal for the day, but it resumed on Tuesday, and barricades were placed along the sidewalk to prevent further tents from being set up. 

 

 

 

‘I am not homeless. I am actually, I would say, I’m here with this piece of art. Call it homeless, call it whatever you want to call it,’ Natsche said.

The makeshift bicycle structure has been gradually growing in height, making residents fearful that it – and the encampment – are here to stay.

O’Farrell’s office, which also represents Koreatown, says it has engaged the homeless who have taken up residence in the encampment at least 50 times in recent months.

The homeless people at the site have been offered housing, according to the council member’s office.

The Department of Sanitation is expected to service the encampment soon, O’Farrell’s office told KABC-TV.

Earlier this summer, LAPD and sanitation officials conducted a massive clean-up of homeless encampments in Venice Beach.

With voters in LA set to elect a new mayor in November, homelessness has been the biggest hot-button issue for residents.

Earlier this summer, the Los Angeles City Council passed a sweeping anti-camping measure to remove widespread homeless encampments that have become commonplace across the city.

The measure was billed as a compassionate approach to get people off the streets and restore access to public spaces in the city with nation’s second-largest homeless population, though critics said it would criminalize the problem.

‘I can’t think of any reason why we would not unite in support of what the people of Los Angeles want us to do,’ Councilman Paul Krekorian, co-author of the measure, said. ‘Restore order to our streets, while also uplifting and providing services to those in need.’

Among other limits, the ordinance that passed 13-2 bans sitting, lying, sleeping or storing personal property that blocks sidewalks, streets and bike lanes or near driveways, fire hydrants, schools, day care centers, libraries, homeless shelters and parks.

It isn’t enforced in some locations until a homeless person has turned down an offer of shelter and the council has passed a resolution placing that space off-limits, posting signs and giving two weeks’ notice.

It can be enforced immediately if a person or tent is blocking handicap access guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or is placing themselves or others in danger such as blocking a loading dock.

The measure replaces a more punitive anti-camping proposal that stalled in a committee.

Under the ordinance, police only get involved if there’s a crime, and people who resist leaving are fined rather than arrested.

The majority of callers during a limited public comment period spoke in support of the measure, describing homeless encounters that included assaults, break-ins and one resident explaining how children walking to school are forced into a busy street to avoid tents crowding sidewalks.

People who opposed the measure, including a couple who used profanity, said it lacked compassion and would criminalize a problem the city has failed to solve.

The meeting was closed to the public for in-person attendance due to Covid restrictions, but a group of advocates for the homeless protested outside City Hall.

Pete White of the LA Community Action Network said the measure is loosely written to allow broad interpretation for enforcement and will make most of the city off-limits to people living on the street.

‘Draconian is definitely the correct word,’ he said. ‘It’s impossible to comply.’

White said an ordinance that limited where people could park RVs and sleep in cars overnight left little more than 5 percent of streets available for parking.

California is home to more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless people, according to federal data, and it has reached a crisis point in many cities.

There are deep disagreements in how to solve a problem that goes beyond economics and is often complicated by mental illness and addiction issues that require treatment and can make people resistant to accepting shelter. 

Encampments in Los Angeles have steadily grown over several years and often sprawl entire blocks.

They can include barbecues, sofas, recliner chairs and even a shower. Many are crammed with piles of belongings and scavenged junk, and are covered in tarps.

A federal judge directed the city of LA to offer housing to thousands of homeless people on Skid Row by this fall, though the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals put that on hold.

The appeals court has separately held that cities can’t make it a crime for homeless people to sleep on the streets when alternative shelter is not available.

While the crisis is widespread across Los Angeles, a dispute about how to solve the problem has become a flashpoint on Venice Beach recently, where an encampment exploded in size during the Covid pandemic.

The situation has left residents weary and worried for their safety — and for the well-being of those in camps — after several violent incidents. A homeless man was arrested in the killing of another homeless man who was bludgeoned in his tent on the beach this past summer.

City Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice, criticized an approach that could lead to jail time if people don’t leave. He launched his own plan to deal with the crisis.

That effort, which has moved 64 people indoors, was being rolled out in several phases starting in August and promises to eventually provide permanent housing.

Bonin opposed the ordinance, saying the city doesn’t have tens of thousands of beds needed for the homeless and criticized the plan for not showing where people can sleep.

Bonin, who is recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, disclosed that he lived without a home in his 20s and ended up sleeping on the beach when his car was in the shop or he couldn’t crash at a friend’s house.

‘I can’t tell you how much turmoil, there is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where you can sleep,’ Bonin said.

‘I cannot describe how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re gonna sleep.’ 

Homelessness has DOUBLED in LA in past five years as the city struggles to combat the humanitarian crisis 

Los Angeles has been ravaged by its homeless crisis for the last decade, with the number of homeless people rising steadily from around 40,000 in 2011. 

In the last year, homelessness increased by 12.7 per cent in LA County because there aren’t enough homes people can afford, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

More than 63,000 people are homeless in LA County, the authority reports. 

The issue is most visible in downtown LA, where hundreds of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row.

Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall and encampments are increasingly found in suburban areas under freeway overpasses. 

In 2015, City Council members and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that they would declare an emergency locally.

However the proposal was abandoned because the mayor wanted a statewide declaration from then California Governor Jerry Brown, who refused the request.

Four years ago, LA voters then approved a tax hike and $1.2 billion housing bond to channel investments into helping solve the homeless crisis.

That bond money has so far been used to build more than half of the 10,000 new housing units planned countywide over 10 years – but housing is still in short supply.

In 2018, LA declared a shelter crisis, which reduced construction hurdles around developing emergency beds on public land.

Then in 2019, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Joe Buscaino put forward a proposal calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency over the crisis – a call that never materialized.  



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