After skid row shooting, activists talk to L.A. mayor about homelessness

Ten days after Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a homeless man on skid row, Mayor Eric Garcetti and his staff met with local activists to discuss ways to better help the city's homeless population.

The meeting focused on suggestions compiled by a coalition of activists, said Najee Ali, who asked for the meeting with the mayor. The recommendations included improving the coordination between city and county agencies, reallocating financial resources and increasing outreach services to better engage homeless residents.


"It was very productive, inspirational," Ali said of the afternoon meeting. "The mayor said that ending homelessness is one of his top priorities."

Yusef Robb, a spokesman for Garcetti, said the mayor "shared his commitment to truly addressing homelessness in L.A. with a permanent supportive housing approach."

Robb said the mayor discussed with the activists his plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year, noting Garcetti announced on Tuesday the availability of 490 vouchers to help homeless veterans find housing.

L.A.'s homeless received renewed attention after the fatal March 1 shooting of a man who stayed on skid row, a stretch of downtown L.A. notorious for its large homeless population and often-harsh living conditions.

Tents and cardboard encampments line the sidewalks. Drugs are prevalant, along with mental illness. It's not uncommon to see residents in wheelchairs or on crutches.

On March 1, police were called to a stretch of San Pedro Street after someone called 911 reporting some type of robbery or assault, the Los Angeles Police Department said. The reported victim pointed out a man -- later identified as Charly Leundeu Keunang, 43 -- whom the officers approached.

Police said that Keunang ignored the officers' commands and tried to fight. At one point, police said, he grabbed a rookie officer's holstered pistol, prompting three others to open fire.

Keunang was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting drew international attention after a witness recorded the incident and posted the video on Facebook, where it was watched millions of times. The incident highlighted the often-tense relationship between police and residents on skid row.

Ali said he felt it was important to work with the mayor's office to address the larger issue of homelessness in L.A. He has organized protests against police killings before, he said, but thought "a better strategy now is to dialogue with the mayor's office instead of demonstrating against the mayor's office."

"It's unfortunate that this man lost his life in a tragic confrontation," he said. "But ultimately his life will not be lost in vain."

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss also was at the meeting. Tulloss is the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Finding ways to better help the homeless, Tulloss said, should be a common goal for Angelenos.

"I think that this is something we can all rally around," he said.


Follow @katemather for more coverage of LAPD's fatal shooting on skid row.