Framework

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June 26, 1987: A view of the Urban Campground, located in an open area near the Los Angeles River at 4th Place and Santa Fe Avenue, looking northwestward toward downtown Los Angeles. The camp had been opened for two weeks and more than 500 homeless were camping out. This photo appeared in the June 28, 1987, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 15, 1987: A man is searched for concealed weapons and contraband at the entrance of the Urban Campground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 15, 1987: A child gazes at a banner displayed at a protest outside the Urban Campground that calls the area "Soweto, USA." Activists said the city needed more low-income housing. not campgrounds, for the homeless.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 16, 1987: Homeless people sleep on cots in open-air tents while a stack of cots go unused at the Urban Campground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Larry Bessel / Los Angeles Times

June 26, 1987: Mike Linea checks on his wife Patricia, right, who was hurt in a car accident.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 26, 1987: Two children play with toys and an empty box at the Urban Campground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 26, 1987: Lisa Gillie, 7 months pregnant, sorts clothes outside her tent at the Urban Campground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

June 26, 1987: Esperanza Huerta washes clothes in front of her tent while her dog Snowball takes it easy in the shade.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas

July 15, 1987: Volunteer Janice Estes, a medal assistant from Fullerton, examines a 2-year-old boy with sores on his legs at the Urban Campground while his mother and sister look on.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

July 15, 1987: Carolyn Blue hangs her wash on a fence to dry at the Urban Campground while daughter Shameka, 3, plays. Blue, mother of five, was at the camp while awaiting housing assistance.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 14, 1987: A child peers out of school bus window as she waits for others from the Urban Campground for ride to Plasencia Elementary School.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 14, 1987: Assistant Principal George Alexander, third from left, confers with teachers at Plasencia School, where a dozen students from the Urban Campground were enrolled.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 11, 1987: Adult workers round up children for the morning pickup at the Urban Campground for the homeless to the Fred Jordan Mission day care program.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 11, 1987: Children from skid row hotels and the Urban Campground have breakfast at the Fred Jordan Mission day care program.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 13, 1987: Segura Williams, 13, left, and his brother Lamartina, 7, outside of their tent at the Urban Campground.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 18, 1987: Graffiti left on a wall near the Urban Campground for the homeless.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 24, 1987: The Urban Campground as seen from the 4th Street bridge the day before it was shut down.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Sep. 18, 1987: Jose Lopez washes the shampoo from his hair with a garden hose at the Urban Campground. He was cleaning up before going on a job search.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 25, 1987: With his belongings piled on a shopping cart, Alfred Gueva leaves the closed Urban Campground., where he had lived since it opened in June.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 23, 1987: A shirt left behind flaps in the breeze after the Urban Campground closed.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Iris Schneider / Los Angeles Times

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In 1987, the Los Angeles Police Department embarked on a major crackdown on homeless encampments on skid row. In response, Mayor Tom Bradley proposed a temporary campground site to relocate the homeless.

In a June, 4, 1987, Los Angeles Times article, Penelope McMillan and Roxanne Arnold reported:

In an effort to supply short-term housing for residents of sidewalk encampments on Skid Row who face a police crackdown starting today, Mayor Tom Bradley proposed Wednesday a temporary “urban campground” on vacant land downtown near the Los Angeles River.

“This is a shelter we think will offer another housing alternative for those who are in need,” Bradley said of the proposed campground, which would be operated for two months on 12 acres of Southern California Rapid Transit District land at 4th Place and Santa Fe Avenue.

The camp, which Bradley said could accommodate “600 people or more,” would be operated by the Salvation Army. The Community Redevelopment Agency would fence the property, provide portable toilets, water and lighting, he added. …

On June 15, 1987, the Urban Campground opened. For the next three months, hundreds of homeless persons stayed at the site. Social service agencies sought to help. School and day care were provided for the children. But the site was temporary; it closed on Sept. 25, 1987.

The headline for a McMillan article in the Sept. 25, 1987, Times summed up the results:

Homeless Camp Ends Much Like It Began : A Grim Place of Refuge Closes Today–and No One Involved Calls It a Success

McMillan’s article began:

It was ugly to begin with, a flat stretch of land flanking the Los Angeles River, fenced and then filled up with trailers, canopies, hundreds of cots and tents. Then came the people, 2,600 in all, who said they had no other place to go.

It is still ugly as it ends, a grim, dusty refuge for 236 people who say they still will have no other place to go when the camp is shut down at 5 p.m. today.

The City of Los Angeles’ urban campground for the homeless has been, as Maj. William Mulch of the Salvation Army put it, “a desperate attempt to help very desperate people.”

No one calls the attempt a success–not the city, the Salvation Army or advocates for the homeless.

The city’s ambition when it opened the camp June 15 was to temporarily shelter the homeless, provide social services and help them find work. The camp did shelter people, in the most minimal way, and several services were set up.

But officials noted that only a small percentage availed themselves of the services, and the vast majority of the homeless who passed through the campground apparently left no better off than when they came.

After 103 days and $397,000 in city costs, Deputy Mayor Grace Davis said the camp left city officials convinced “we should not be in the shelter business.” …

The Salvation Army, which incurred $227,000 in costs of its own in running the camp for the city, leaves with its reputation as a friend of the needy tarnished. ” ‘We never thought the Salvation Army would be involved in something like this.’ I’ve had that said to me,” Lt. Col. David P. Riley, the army’s Southern California division commander, said.

“There was the dust in the air all the time, lack of drainage of the water, showers that leaked from the day they were installed,” Riley continued. “The equipment was not adequate. There was no way you could bring dignity or cleanliness to it.”

“The campground was unsanitary, unhealthy and a bad environment for children,” said Jack Faz, social services coordinator for Para Los Niños, the service agency that shouldered most of the burden of relocating 119 families with 265 children, 75% of whom came from within Los Angeles County. “It was a bad thing all around.”

Yet, it did give a small number–240 of the 2,600 homeless who passed through– a leg up with help to find jobs. “I couldn’t have done that on the street,” said 22-year-old Raymond Byfield, who now has a $640-a-month job driving a truck. It also helped more than 100 people obtain legal identification, which employers must require under new immigration laws.

“A lot of people learned to live collectively and to share,” David Bryant, a homeless leader, said. “For a lot of people, there was a real sense of community they hadn’t had.”

1 Comment

  1. December 20, 2016, 8:09 am

    1st!! House ALL the homeless PERMANENTLY!! In a country this wealthy, there shouldnt be even one person sleeping on sidewalks…

    By: professorjpj

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