(FOX 11) - It could be the biggest issue facing our local communities-- homelessness. And now, emergency measures to deal with the problem are threatening an L.A. landmark.
Maria Martinez wants help and Councilman Jose Huizar wants to help, but businesspeople around Pueblo de Los Angeles are trying to stand in the way!
Ask Martinez what it’s like to be homeless and she’ll tell you it’s “hell on heels!”
To make a buck, Martinez sells cigarettes and flowers next to her tent. Her piece of sidewalk is near Olvera Street and El Pueblo - a huge LA tourist attraction! Business owners don’t like the homeless being around. Businessman Edward Flores says “I’ve been assaulted. I’ve been injured.”
Flores and others we spoke with are terrified about a plan City Councilman Jose Huizar wants that he believes could be a model program for LA. It would turn city parking lot #5 into a camp for the homeless with showers and trailers. Councilman Huizar says the idea would be “put them on a 6-month maximum time at the trailers and put them on a path to eventually get bridge housing and then permanent supportive housing.”
Maria Martinez loves it! She says, “I think that’s awesome because we’re tired of being here. We’re tired of disturbing these people. they don’t want it but if you don’t help us get off of here how are we going to do this?”
Businesspeople in the historic district says they’re worried.
Valerie Hanley who owns Casa California says we already have an already increasing homeless issue. There’s no guarantee the people will be in the trailers that are around here and there’s no guarantee they’re going to stay in the trailers throughout the day. So, there is still going to be an issue with that.”
The Councilman says, “I’m going to ask them what do you prefer having hundreds of scattered tents and individual encampments of homeless individuals or or have them in one location and get them on a path to recovery.”
When you ask the Councilman if he’s concerned about tourism he says, “if the indicator of whether this is working or not is tourism and the impact of tourists I would say we’re going to be better off with the trailers.”
But, the businesspeople don’t agree. Says businessman George Sherman, “I think its going to affect our business in a major way…and this is all we depend on … our businesses for our families… it’s the only livelihood we have.”
The council committee looking into this proposal voted 5-0 to approve finance preparation for the program. Ultimately, it’ll go to the full council. If approved by then, Huizar hopes it will become a reality by summer.