Editorial:: A plan to clean up L.A. and help the homeless? Get it done already

A pile of trash sits uncollected on Santee Street between 18th Street and Washington Boulevard in the Fashion District of Los Angeles on Oct. 11, 2018.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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Finally, Los Angeles city officials are recognizing the urgent need to clean up the trash near homeless encampments. Both the trash that homeless people have nowhere to put and the garbage illegally dumped by businesses are a blight and health hazard for everyone in the city. Too bad our elected representatives had to be shamed into performing one of local government’s most basic duties.

Under a $6-million plan laid out by city officials, sanitation workers would place trash receptacles in high-density homeless encampments and provide regular trash collection. In addition, a pilot program would be set up to employ homeless people to clean up trash in encampments, which is a great idea. There are homeless people sweeping dirt and trash away from their encampments right now.

Don’t postpone the decision. Don’t call for another study. This is an emergency.


The comprehensive power-cleaning of streets and sidewalks that already occurs regularly on skid row and in Venice would be expanded to other communities with significant homeless populations. While crews work, mobile bathrooms with toilets and showers would be set up nearby for the duration of the cleanup. Then the bathrooms would be carted away. Although any additional bathroom in this public-toilet desert of a city is a help, temporary toilets will not meet the desperate need.

Also, sanitation officials have proposed undercover surveillance to catch and prosecute illegal dumping, which is a significant contributor to the problem.

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It’s encouraging to see Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Bureau of Sanitation responding — finally, in the wake of tough criticism from The Times — to the masses of trash accumulated by and around homeless Angelenos, adding misery to their plight. But the City Council must still do its part and provide the funds necessary to launch this plan.

Let’s not turn this into some long, tedious opera of bureaucracy. Nury Martinez, who chairs the City Council committee that just heard the plan, should persuade her colleagues to move the plan on without additional, duplicative hearings. She already supports providing the $150,000 needed for the pilot program employing homeless people to do cleanup. That’s good.

It’s promising that the plan is expected to be debated at the council’s July 2 meeting — right before its members go on recess. They should agree to fund it that day. Don’t postpone the decision. Don’t call for another study. This is an emergency.


Here is one place the City Council can act urgently. It should do that.

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