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Bass faces pushback when homeless people are abruptly moved from one hotel to another

Four weeks ago, Mayor Karen Bass’s homeless team found a warm place indoors for Princeton Parker, a 38-year-old man living in a tent on the west side of Los Angeles.

Parker was delighted with his move to the Silver Lake Hotel on the edge of Silver Lake and historic Filipinotown. The rooms were large and his friends from camp were nearby. “I felt like I had a home,” he said.

Princeton Parker was moved last month from a tent on the Westside to the Silver Lake Hotel. Since then, it has been relocated to two other hotels.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

But that deal was upended last week when Bass’s Inside Safe operation abruptly moved him and 20 others to a downtown Los Angeles hotel. When that location didn’t work out, Parker was sent to a third hotel in Hollywood. He has felt lonely and isolated ever since.

“I was extremely excited” to be at the Silver Lake Hotel, the former Pasadena resident said. “And they just took that away from me.”

The comings and goings at the Silver Lake Hotel show some of the logistical challenges Bass faces as he looks to move 1,000 people inside through his Inside Safe program by Tuesday, his 100th day in office. Bass expects the city to have housed a total of 4,000 people during that span. (Most of the remaining 3,000 are being helped through initiatives launched before Bass took office.)

So far, at least two of the mayor’s 13 Inside Safe operations have resulted in homeless people being moved from one hotel to another, and sometimes a third, drawing sharp complaints from public defenders. homeless.

“The goal of Inside Safe is essentially to get people off the streets permanently,” said Meggie Kelley, who volunteers at Fairfax Mutual Aid, which provides food and other resources to homeless Angelenos. “Moving them from one place to another does not offer them stability. It takes people away from the community that they have.”

The situation has also highlighted the lack of temporary housing available to the mayor in some parts of Los Angeles.

Last month, Bass and his Inside Safe team removed 43 people, including Parker, from homeless encampments on or near 6th Street and Fairfax Avenue. The area is represented by Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who participated in the operation. But because his Westside ward doesn’t have enough temporary housing, those residents were relocated to the Silver Lake Hotel in the ward represented by Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez.

Leo Daube, a spokesman for Yaroslavsky, said his boss contacted Soto-Martinez in advance about using the hotel. “We reached out … to make sure they were okay with it, because it’s in his district,” he said. “And Hugo kindly agreed.”

For many, the stay did not last long.

On Monday, Bass’s Inside Safe program began transferring about half of the people on 6th and Fairfax from the Silver Lake Hotel to other locations: the LA Grand Hotel in downtown and the West Inn Hotel in Hollywood. Some objected, saying they did not want to be uprooted.

The next day, a new group of homeless people were brought to the Silver Lake Hotel, this time from the Soto-Martinez district. That day, Inside Safe began targeting various locations near Echo Park Lake.

Soto-Martinez promised during last year’s campaign to tear down the fence surrounding the lake, which went up in 2021 as part of a controversial cleanup of a massive homeless encampment. He has assured park residents that he will work to prevent the homeless from returning to the park. His first town hall on fence removal took place on Thursday, just as Operation Inside Safe in Echo Park was winding down.

In an interview, Soto-Martinez said there is no connection between the Echo Park operation, which moved 56 people inside, and his plan to remove the fence from Echo Park Lake. “We’ve been working on both things independently,” she said.

Soto-Martinez declined to say whether her Echo Park Inside Safe operation ended up forcing other people out of the Silver Lake Hotel. That issue, he said, should be handled by the mayor.

“The hotels, and where people enter, that is something that the mayor coordinates,” he said.

Bass attendant Zach Seidl questioned the idea of ​​people being moved out of the Silver Lake Hotel to make way for the homeless residents of Soto-Martinez. The relocation effort, he said, was done to “improve the living conditions of the residents of 6th and Fairfax.”

Seidl did not provide additional details. Meanwhile, Bass seemed appalled by the treatment of the residents of the 6th and Fairfax camps.

Bass said the encampments are “small communities” that serve as support systems for their inhabitants. Splitting people from the same camp to three different hotels “is not what I want to happen,” she said.

Bass said he’s been trying to move with urgency, getting people off the street even though some aspects of Inside Safe aren’t fully developed. He said he can’t guarantee that the same situation won’t happen again, if, for example, his office discovers problems with a particular hotel.

“If we find the need to move people, we will,” he said.

Seidl, the assistant mayor, said the Silver Lake Hotel was never intended to be a long-term housing option for residents of 6th and Fairfax.

Carolyn Shayne Smith, who has been staying at the Silver Lake Hotel, said she got a different message.

Smith, who came from the area of ​​6th and Fairfax last month, said she and other camp residents were told when they moved in that they would be at the hotel for up to a year, or until they were connected to permanent housing. The 53-year-old woman said that was why she was surprised to hear from a community worker that they would be transferred to another location after less than a month.

Carolyn Shayne Smith was moved from her homeless encampment in the area of ​​6th and Fairfax last month to the Silver Lake Hotel.

Carolyn Shayne Smith was moved last month from a homeless encampment to the Silver Lake Hotel. She rejected recent efforts to move her to a different hotel.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Some residents of Camp 6th and Fairfax were just getting to know the surrounding neighborhood and were using the Silver Lake Hotel as their return address when requesting IDs, Smith said.

Smith, who worked in interior design until suffering a serious health crisis, said she demanded an explanation. A community worker responded, he said, telling him that everyone had to move to make way for the homeless arriving from the Soto-Martínez district.

“They said, ‘We have to move you to another hotel, we’ll be here Monday at 9:30, pack up and be ready,’” Smith said.

Smith and several others challenged the move and contacted mutual aid workers and Yaroslavsky’s staff, who helped advocate on their behalf. Eighteen people from Camp 6th and Fairfax ultimately stayed, according to the mayor’s office. Smith was among them.

Others did not challenge the measure. Parker, for example, boarded the bus to the LA Grand on Monday and immediately had second thoughts after learning about some of the rules at the facility.

Mayor Karen Bass, left, and Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky visit a campground at 6th and Fairfax on February 16.

Mayor Karen Bass, left, Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Anita Wells, the mayor’s director of outreach, visit a homeless encampment at 6th and Fairfax on February 16.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Parker said he and the other newcomers were told LA Grand residents are prohibited from having guests, visiting each other’s rooms or congregating in hallways. “You’re like a prisoner all the time,” he said.

Parker said she tried the LA Grand for one night and then moved on. He tried unsuccessfully to return to the Silver Lake Hotel. He is now at the West Inn Hotel in Hollywood, away from his other friends.

Yaroslavsky, when asked about the situation at the Silver Lake Hotel, said she is grateful to Bass for her response to the homelessness crisis. She also said her office, the mayor’s team and Soto-Martinez staff worked to address the needs of homeless people who have moved out of her district.

“What matters is that all of the people who previously lived at 6th and Fairfax still have a roof over their heads and were not homeless again,” he said.