Making a move on homeless at the Bowl
November 11, 2010
Living in the hillside houses and condos above the Hollywood Bowl has long offered a taste of the rustic in the midst of the bustling city. For years, it’s also brought with it a stark urban reality: sharing the neighborhood with an encampment of homeless people.
Residents had long complained about crime problems and fire hazards associated with the impoverished community. “I know one of them came and jumped in our hot tub once,” said condo-dweller Jerry Shandy.
The Sheriff’s Department, which last year assumed policing responsibilities from county’s the Office of Public Safety, recently had its Parks Bureau set up shop at the county-owned Bowl, with a mandate to resolve the situation in a way that would help the homeowners as well as the homeless.
Sheriff’s Capt. Stephen Smith called in the department’s special problems team, which confronts crime and quality of life concerns in and around county parks. In addition to figuring out the logistics of shutting down the camp, the team created a plan to provide food, clothing and offers of shelter for the displaced.
Deputy Jason Elkins, a 10-year sheriff’s veteran, twice walked the hillside and notified the homeless that, in the coming weeks, the area would be cleared. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which manages the public land where the homeless had taken up residence, was brought on board, along with the county Department of Mental Health, Caltrans, the CHP, the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the nonprofit organization PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), among others.
The effort was given a name that stressed its mission: “Hollywood Bowl Homeless Outreach Project”
“We didn’t want to leave anyone displaced,” Elkins said.
The operation began on October 27, with the team making its way up hillsides so steep that the homeless had created rope pulls to make the climb easier. Authorities had expected to encounter 30 homeless people but found that many, including one who’d been there for a decade, had left as a likely result of the notifications.
Caltrans workers filled four trucks with the remains of the dismantled campsites. Follow-up work to remove overgrown vegetation took place Wednesday.
“From our perspective, unfortunately, we have to deal with these kinds of things quite a bit,” said Dash Stolarz of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which now is working to restore the property and prevent new encampments. “It’s just a constant battle to make sure the parklands are safe.”
On Tuesday, Elkins and another team member, Deputy Nisha Sehdev, went back through the neighborhood Tuesday, talking to appreciative residents about the operation. One of them, Jack Calnan, spoke for the many when he said, “We really appreciate you being on top of it.”