At the GHSNC May 7, 2020 regular meeting the following questions were posed to Councilperson Lee regarding the use of the Granada Hills Recreation center as a temporary homeless shelter during the COVID-19 crisis. Below are the written responses. Stakeholders raised additional questions during Public Comment, and the answers to those questions will be published once received from Council District 12.
- What are the long term plans for the Rec Center after the pandemic crisis has resolved?
Our office is determined to return the Rec Centers to normal operations as quickly as possible once the crisis abates.
- Will a portion of the Rec center remain as a homeless shelter?
There are no plans for the Rec Centers to continue being used for this purpose following the crisis.
- What are the plans for 26 trailers in the parking lot south of the Granada Hills Branch Library?
The trailers are to be used for those experiencing homelessness who are in an at-risk category- this refers to unhoused persons who are aged 55 and older and/or have underlying health or medical conditions, factors which make an individual more susceptible. There are no plans for the trailers to be used for overflow or isolation of those testing positive for the virus.
- Initially, the temporary homeless shelter was to house local homeless individuals – are homeless from other areas being transferred to the Rec Center or trailers?
Rec Centers are open throughout the City. People are being taken to the Rec Center closest to their location.
- How are individuals that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 being isolated or treated?
All actions in this event are undertaken at the direction of the County’s Department of Public Health. If a person is confirmed positive while residing at the shelter, they are taken to a hospital. Any necessary follow up testing of other residents and/or staff, quarantine periods, etc. are determined by DPH, whose staff monitor individuals and the site closely.
- What non-pharmaceutical interventions been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The wearing of masks. gloves, frequent hand washing, following the safer at home order, and practicing social distancing when out in public are best practices for containing the spread.
- What is being done to protect the safety of the homeless within the large encampment surrounding the library and the surrounding community and residents?
The LAPD HOPE and the Bureau of Sanitation are going to the location multiple times per week performing spot cleaning and offering resources to those living outside of the Rec Center. We have also allocated overtime funding to our LAPD divisions and requested additional patrols in the surrounding community.
- What will be done with the large encampment and the homeless within the Rec Center once the pandemic crisis has resolved? Where will the homeless be placed?
Once the mayor’s emergency orders are lifted we will be able to enforce city ordinances that are now suspended. Outreach operations have continued throughout the crisis. However, there is no legal mechanism to force a person to accept housing or resources- this was the case prior and the emergency declaration has not changed this. The City, County, and LAHSA are working on mechanisms to keep folks currently in Rec Centers housed after the crisis- one such mechanism is by using empty hotels/motels coming under contract through Project Roomkey. For more information on Project Roomkey, please visit this website: https://covid19.lacounty.gov/project-roomkey/.
- Who authorized the temporary shelter at the Rec Center at Petit Park? Is the Department of Public Health or the Mayor’s Office responsible for the decision?
Both the County and State Departments of Public Health advised that getting our homeless population indoors was critical to helping flatten the curve and reduce the infection and death rate caused by the coronavirus. Based on that guidance, Mayor Garcetti ordered the use of city facilities to do exactly that. Many of the specific park locations are pre-identified in the City’s emergency operations plan as shelter locations in the event of an emergency.
- For how long will the police be involved with future plans at the Rec Center after the COVID-19 emergency status has resolved? Will it be until the end of the year or longer?
Councilmember Lee is determined to return the park to its regular function once the crisis is over and the mayor’s orders are lifted. In the meantime, the councilmember has provided additional funding to Devonshire Division for increased patrols of the area.
- Why aren’t homeless individuals that are brought from other areas required to stay inside the temporary shelter, when there is no reason to leave?
The at-risk homeless being sheltered at the rec centers are local and from the San Fernando Valley. The shelters are operating under the guidelines set out by the County Department of Public Health. Neither government nor law enforcement can force individuals to remain on site.
- Hope of the Valley does not do background checks. Who is responsible for vetting and initiating background checks (for crimes/pedophilia) on the homeless? Some have been brought into the community from other areas.
The City and the service providers do not have the capacity to perform background checks. Such checks are not part of the normal intake process at shelters of this type.
- Will individuals who are a threat to our community be moved to non-residential areas?
LAPD is posted at these locations. If there is a threat to public safety they will take whatever actions are proper and necessary.
- Does the City or another agency track the number of homeless individuals, have a list of names and other follow-up information on those who have been transferred to the Rec Center?
This information is collected by the service provider and is confidential; the shelter effort is coordinated with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Currently, there are 884 occupied shelter beds in Rec Centers throughout the City of Los Angeles.
- How will the Mayor’s latest plan to wind down the use of city parks as temporary homeless shelter impact the ongoing operations at Petit Park Rec Center and when do you anticipate the closure of the temporary shelter?
At this time, there is not a set timeline for the wind down at the rec centers. The strategy is to stop new admissions while simultaneously working to place individuals currently residing in the rec center in another form of housing (ie. Project Roomkey, alternative shelter).
LAHSA and the City are working to track individual placement. During this time when many individuals currently in the rec centers may have taken the first steps to accept housing, the Councilmember thinks it is critical for LAHSA to be central to this process of placement and continued engagement.