L.A. Now

'Where are we going to go?' L.A. homeless sweeps continue despite lawsuit

Just one day after advocates for the homeless filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, work crews and police were out again Tuesday making arrests and removing homeless encampments along a highly visible stretch of the 101 Freeway downtown.

The sweep, which was conducted by city sanitation workers and the Los Angeles Police Department, focused on an area where Main and Spring streets cross over the 101 Freeway, according to police and witnesses. Crews had given the homeless prior notice to remove their possessions, according to city officials.

The cleanup began at 8 a.m. as thousands of morning commuters streamed below the tattered encampments. Officers arrested seven to nine homeless people on outstanding warrants or for possession of allegedly stolen shopping carts and other misdemeanors, authorities said.

At one point, several tents, backpacks, duffels and other belongings were wrapped with yellow tape as a tearful older woman spoke to a police officer. Another homeless man stood behind an LAPD patrol car as officers searched his pockets.

“Where are we going to go?” asked Alvir Gavorkain, a 58-year-old woman who has been homeless since 2002. “I’m sick and old, I can’t keep doing this every time they ask me to move.”

MAP: Where are L.A.'s homeless? Almost everywhere.

Gavorkain said she had been living with at least five other people near Arcadia and Spring streets when police arrived Tuesday morning and said that they needed to move their items or they would be cited.

Gavorkain said that she had been rousted in prior sweeps and that she was tired of moving.

“I don’t want to go to the shelter; they only let you bring two items,” she said. “Sometimes I can’t get in.”

Tuesday’s cleanup is just one of hundreds that have been conducted in downtown and other neighborhoods as the city struggles to cope with growing ranks of homeless.

In 2015, the city conducted 961 encampment cleanups and carted off 1,355 tons of material, according to the Bureau of Sanitation.

City officials insist that they are trying to balance the needs of homeless people while also ensuring that the city is “habitable.”

Critics charge that the cleanups are futile and frequently revisit sites that had previously been cleared.

The lawsuit filed Monday accuses the city of endangering homeless people by seizing and destroying their tents and bedding and then releasing them from jail into the cold without protection. It also contends that the city has stepped up homeless sweeps.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hadn't seen the suit. Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said the office would review the lawsuit but had no comment.

City officials this year released a $2-billion plan to combat the homelessness crisis but said they did not have the money to fund it.

Times staff writers Joseph Serna and Doug Smith contributed to this report.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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UPDATE

9:13 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information.

This article was first published at 1:02 p.m.

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