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L. A. opens City Hall as shelter for homeless

L. A. opens City Hall as shelter for homeless

Jan. 20, 1987: Kim and Frank Hernandez with their bedding in the aisles of the Los Angeles City Hall Council Chamber. About 150 homeless were admitted into City Hall for the night.

This photo was published on page one of the Jan. 21, 1987, Los Angeles Times. An accompanying story by staff writers Richard Simon and Nieson Himmel began:

Spurred by the deaths last week of four street people from exposure to near-freezing temperatures, the Los Angeles City Council opened City Hall on Tuesday night to temporarily house the homeless.

The decision was made on a 10-0 vote by the council earlier Tuesday — a few days after Mayor Tom Bradley refused to open public buildings as temporary shelters, citing the city’s potential legal liability in case of injury.

Since Bradley’s decision, however, the coroner’s office has confirmed four deaths due to hypothermia.

The mayor was in Africa on a trade mission Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, but Bradley’s press secretary, Ali Webb, said that she had apprised the mayor by phone of the council’s action and he concurred.

Authorities had come under harsh criticism for failing to provide shelter for the homeless during the cold spell, which began last Thursday and reached its low point Saturday night, when the temperature at the Civic Center dipped to 36 degrees.

By Tuesday, it was several degrees warmer–with an overnight low of 43 predicted for Central Los Angeles.

The council’s action Tuesday permits the homeless to stay in the council chamber and several other spots in and around City Hall from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily through Friday, when the council will decide whether to extend the program.

A council committee remained in session past 6 p.m. Tuesday, however, so the homeless had to remain outside a while longer. But by 9 p.m., about 50 street people were bedded down in the middle and side aisles of the marble-columned chamber–some of them enjoying special chicken dinners donated by Chicken George, a nearby fast food restaurant, and the Faithful Central Baptist Church.

On Jan. 23, the City Council voted to move the homeless from City Hall to a new temporary shelter in Little Tokyo.

Jan. 21, 1987: Homeless man known as “Sweet Doc” mops up at Lox Angeles City Hall after Council Chambers used as temporary shelter. This photo was published in the Jan. 22, 1987 Los Angeles Times.

Jan. 21, 1987: Homeless man known as “€œSweet Doc” mops up at Lox Angeles City Hall after Council Chambers were used as temporary shelter. This photo was published in the Jan. 22, 1987, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Penni Gladstone/Los Angeles Times

Jan. 21, 1987: People sleep in aisles of the council chambers after Los Angeles City Hall was declared a temporary homeless shelter.

Jan. 21, 1987: People sleep in aisles of the council chambers after Los Angeles City Hall was declared a temporary homeless shelter. Credit: Penni Gladstone/Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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