Framework

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Dec. 21, 1984: Residents of the tent city near Los Angeles City Hall finish up dinner outside their temporary home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 18, 1984: A workman sets up a tent for the homeless near Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 18, 1984: A view of the temporary tent city for the homeless as seen from 1st Street and Broadway.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 21, 1984: Jose Alvarez sits with his school books for business college inside Tent City, a temporary homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Len Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 21, 1984: Ernestine Wesley peers from under boxes and plastic wrap set up over her cot at Tent City, a temporary homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 24, 1984: Residents of Tent City move about under the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 2, 1985: A volunteer at Tent City folds up cots after homeless people who had been living there moved out of the temporary shelter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 2, 1984: Tent City is taken down.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 2, 1985: Keith Smith, 26, sits with his children, ranging in age from 8 months to 3 years, after Tent City was taken down. He and his family had found shelter in one of the tents.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 2, 1985: Homeless people stage a sit-down protest in the County Board of Supervisors chambers following the closing of Tent City. They were later forcibly removed.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

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1984 Tent City for the homeless

In December 1984, advocates for the homeless opened a temporary shelter on Spring Street, opposite Los Angeles City Hall. The shelter was nicknamed “Tent City.”

In the Dec. 23, 1984, Los Angeles Times, staff writer Maura Dolan reported:

It looks like a battlefield hospital. Cots are lined up, one next to the other, and sleeping bodies squirm under thin blankets. When it rains, drops fall from unseen leaks and deep puddles and mud cover the plastic spread over the grass for flooring.

Inside Los Angeles’ temporary tent city, thrown up in the shadow of City Hall, about 250 men and women with no address huddle together for the holidays, preferring not to think about eviction scheduled for the day after Christmas.

A woman who ordinarily lives in a box on the street could not make the transition to a cot. So she brought her box inside and rests there quietly. A 39-year-old man named Richard dropped by for a hot meal but decided to spend the night in a doorway rather than the tent. “It’s what I’m used to,” he said.

Organized by volunteers who work with the homeless, the tent city is designed to provide shelter during the holidays and to dramatize the destitution. Organizers are asking the county to raise welfare grants, to end a practice of cutting off aid for 60 days when the recipients fail to appear for county public work jobs and to provide more affordable housing in Los Angeles.

A steady stream of passers-by passes daily to donate money, blankets, food and clothing. In a corner of one of the tents is a donated plastic Christmas tree, decorated with red and white balls. Nearby, two Christmas candles wrapped in plastic holly sit atop a small portable heater. Outside the second tent, two Christmas trees are tied to posts.

But the two tents, and a tepee for women and children only, are temporary. Pitched on state-owned property Tuesday, they must be taken down Dec. 26 unless organizers can obtain an extension on their state permit. ….

Tent City organizers did receive a one-week extension. The site was closed on Jan. 2, 1985, and about 300 homeless returned to the streets.

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