L.A. leaders are crafting new plan to help homeless on skid row

Gale Holland (Los Angeles Times) | July 15, 2014

Carlos OcanaLos Angeles officials are developing a new strategy for taming pervasive homelessness on skid row, easing up on arrests for petty offenses while concentrating mental health, medical, housing and sanitation services in the long-troubled swath of downtown.

Officials say the effort involves cooperation between the city and county, whose inability to mesh hampered earlier homelessness plans in the 50-block neighborhood. The area now finds itself pinched by gentrification, with homeless people camping in tents just around the corner from trendy, upscale bars and restaurants.

The changes grew in part out of the frustration of skid row beat cops like LAPD Officer Deon Joseph, who issued an anguished cry for help to answer what he described as a mental health crisis.

“It is not the LAPD that has failed the mentally ill or the public,” Joseph, a 16-year skid row veteran, wrote on Facebook and in the Downtown News. “It is our society that has failed them.”

This year, the city announced Operation Healthy Streets, budgeting $3.7 million for stepped-up street cleanings and improved bathroom access and storage for homeless people on skid row.

Outreach workers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the county Health Services and Mental Health departments will now be present on major cleaning days to offer homeless people as many services — psychiatric appointments, tuberculosis tests, Medicaid enrollment, detoxification beds — in a day as would otherwise take months, officials said.

That effort could debut as soon as Aug. 13, though officials said details are still being worked out. A new approach to policing has already begun.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-skid-row-police-20140716-story.html#page=1

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