LOS ANGELES - Residents in Echo Park have been dealing with the homeless situation for some time now.
Unless they are protesting the encampments in Echo Park Lake or blogging online about it, most residents in the area prefer not to speak publicly on the issue. The issue of tents sprouting up in the park has pitted neighbors against one another, with some even showing up at each other’s homes after reading comments online they did not agree with.
None of the residents FOX 11 spoke with expressed any desire to harm the people living in tents or wish them ill. Most agree that rent in Los Angeles is unaffordable and that being homeless is not preferable, especially during the pandemic. Several residents say they wish there had been a way to clean the park without police involvement and most blame city officials for letting things get this bad.
With that said, a good half of the people we spoke with who live in the area found the situation in the park intolerable. They cite danger to the community, health hazards, not being able to use the park, and cited concerns about property values.
The other half seems almost split in the middle with people who have absolutely no problem with the tents, and those who tolerate it but would prefer something different.
"I moved in last August, not nearly as bad as it is now," said one resident.
"Trust me, when I was walking around the park I wasn’t bothered by them, I don’t feel threatened or anything," said another.
But other residents disagree.
"I can’t go to the park, or boat rides, People still do it but it used to be like, when they first built it, if you look at the history of Echo Park it was amazing," stated a resident.
It seems like the older the resident is, the more likely they are to remember the park history, including beautiful lotus blooming celebrations, Latin music festivals, even fishing in the now foul smelling lake that some say is being used as a bathroom.
The older residents tend to be more intolerant of the situation, especially if they are homeowners.
"It will be nice to see it a little bit cleaner, nobody wants to live in that type of situation. But we do want the best for the people out there," said one resident,
Only a quarter of the residents in Echo Park own homes, 75% are renters. The median price of a home in the neighborhood, which is considered an up and coming trendy area, is almost $800,000, according to several real estate sites.
More than half the homes are valued at over $400,000 with the majority way beyond that, according to niche.com. Many renters are paying on average $1,200 to $2,000 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment.
The market has suffered somewhat but remains strong, with no way to blame any decrease on homeless taking over the lake. At the same time, real estate agents tell us that there are buyers who have shied away from homes there because of that reason.
Younger residents we spoke with were much more likely to not only sympathize with the encampments, but also accept them. Many of the men in their 20’s and 30’s we spoke to said they didn’t feel afraid when walking in the park, but most said they worried about their girlfriends, who were afraid to walk alone.
As to crime… it has gone up in the area, according to LAPD. But it has increased in the city as well since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
According to law enforcement, break-ins, robberies and burglaries, overdoses and attacks near the park tend to have some kind of connection with parolees or habitual criminals who happen to live in the park. Homeowners around the park echoed complaints about garbage that includes needles and human defecation.
Yet, homeless activists working in the park insist it’s one of the cleanest, safest unhoused alternatives they have seen.
Again, most people we talked to would like more alternatives for the homeless, some wouldn’t even mind them in their neighborhood, which seems more accepting of low cost housing than others – at least by the younger generation. Those are the ones affected by rent increases that are faster than their wages.
But even among the younger generation, those lucky enough to save enough for a down payment say this "when you are paying almost three quarters of a million dollars for your house do you really want a homeless center next to you?"
It’s complicated…the one thing everyone agrees on.