L.A. agrees to return tiny houses seized from homeless people
Julia Briggs Cannon, 58, left, receives a hug from Elvis Summers, who built the tiny houses and donated them. He’s moving Cannon’s house to storage before the city can impound it.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Elvis Summers, left, who built the tiny houses and donated them to the homeless, moves one after the City of Los Angeles posted removal notices.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Elvis Summers, left, directs his crew who are forced to remove the small home of Marvin Burrus, 58, right, after the City of Los Angeles posted removal notices.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Elvis Summers prepares a small home for removal after the City of Los Angeles posted removal notices.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Marvin Burrus, 58, cries before his small home is removed.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Marisol Viera, left, checks on a fatigued Elvis Summers who tries to gather up energy to remove the last of eight homes that he was forced to relocate.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Susie Barker, 50, lives inside one of the structures that Elvis Summers created for her on 47th Street in Los Angeles.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
An emotional Elvis Summers prepares to remove one of the small homes he constructed for a homeless woman.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Elvis Summers jumps off a trailer that will carry the small home he built for Julia Briggs Cannon, 58, right, after the City of Los Angeles began removing the structures.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Elvis Summers, right, with the help of Marisol Viera, left, and Angel Bonillatercero, removes one of 37 small homes he built for the homeless.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Julia Briggs Cannon, 58, stands inside the small home that Elvis Summers created for her along 47th Street in Los Angeles.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A tearful Julia Briggs Cannon, 58, right, receives a hug from Marisol Viera before Elvis Summers, left, has to remove the small home he built for her.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Julia Briggs Cannon, 58, watches as Elvis Summers prepares to transport the small house he built for her.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles has agreed to return tiny houses that police and sanitation workers impounded from homeless people, but the mayor’s office has not endorsed a suggestion to place a village of tiny houses on city land, a spokeswoman said.
Elvis Summers, who reportedly built and distributed 37 brightly colored structures to homeless people over the last year, said he had understood that Mayor Eric Garcetti was considering offering a surplus city lot as a site for the houses.
Connie Llanos, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said that although the mayor appreciated citizen efforts to come up with creative solutions to the city’s homelessness problem, he does not support the village concept.
“Not at this time,” Llanos said. “We’re developing a process on how we could work with nonprofits and we’d share those with” Summers.
Popularized as part of a lifestyle-downsizing movement, the bare-bones structures appeal to supporters as a simple and safe alternative to people sleeping on the sidewalk. Los Angeles has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country, and tattered shantytowns have spread citywide, far from their roots in the downtown area.
Summers collected more than $100,000 through online video appeals and crowdfunding sites for his tiny house campaign.
Escalating their battle to stamp out an unprecedented spread of street encampments, Los Angeles city officials have begun seizing tiny houses from homeless people living on freeway overpasses in South Los Angeles.
Officials, however, consider the houses a health and safety hazard, and in February seized three from freeway overpasses in South Los Angeles. A fourth structure was confiscated more recently, Summers said Thursday.
A City Hall protest last month of the tiny house seizures drew dozens of selfie-stick-wielding bloggers and supporters.
Summers said he expects to get the houses back in the next two weeks and store them on a church lot in Compton, while he continues to look for land, preferably with shower and bathroom access, electricity and other necessities.
Summers said he does not see a tiny house village as an end in itself but as a way to anchor homeless people so they can receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, counseling and medical care on the way to permanent housing.
“I’m absolutely not trying to enable people,” he said. “It’s just a bridge between the gutter and permanent housing, and it all starts with a good night’s rest.”
The homeless people who lost their tiny houses are living in the streets in tents, even though the city rushed to get some of them rent vouchers, he said.
“No one is accepting them,” he said of the vouchers. “Everyone is still on the streets.”
One of the men suffered a broken back when he was struck by a car while crossing the street on foot, and is recuperating in a tent, Summers said. “He just graduated to a cane,” Summers said.
Follow Gale Holland on homelessness news @geholland
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