Businesses say homeless crisis in Long Beach is not safe for community

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is the only mode of transportation for thousands of people across Los Angeles County.

For those experiencing homelessness, the trains are also a place for rest and sleep; a somewhat safer location than sleeping on the streets. 

"You have to be up at all times, you can’t just go to sleep because you can get robbed, you can get raped or anything like that," said a man who preferred not to give his name.

But between midnight and 1 a.m., on the A-line traveling from downtown LA to Long Beach, everyone is forced off the Metro so that the trains can be cleaned for the next morning.

FOX 11 was there, as Long Beach Police officers assisted Metro in removing one person after another. Homeless men and women roamed the streets with nowhere else to go. 

Business owners call it, "The dumping of the homeless." They partially blame this practice for a 62% increase in the homeless population in Long Beach within the last two years. They say it’s affecting more than just the downtown area.

"I’m in fear of my own safety and of course my customers," says business owner Serina Lim. 

She owns a jewelry store, but it looks more like a prison.

"We have to keep these bars pretty much all around the area," Lim said.

She said she installed those bars after she was threatened by transients who also tried to break in. During the last two years, Lim has been taking photos and videos of people walking around naked in the middle of the street, going to the bathroom on the sidewalk and in the parking lot and even starting fires. Lim says it’s simply not safe and not fair to tax-paying business owners. 

"I’m fed up, that’s why I’m speaking up," Lim said.

LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn says she didn’t know until recently that Metro was forcing the homeless off the trains. It’s something she doesn’t approve of. Hahn says, 

"This is a real problem and I think a lot of people are unaware that Metro has this policy," Hahn said.

Hahn has authored a motion to evaluate the "end of line policy." It passed committee and now goes up for a vote of the full board. 

Meanwhile, Metro issued the following statement:

"Metro’s end of line policy to deboard trains before returning to the rail yard each night is a critically important and standard transit system practice not dissimilar to businesses like stores or restaurants that close their doors to clean, restock and maintain in advance of the following day’s business hours. We do this every evening, as well as in the middle of the day, to ensure our trains are properly cleaned and maintained before returning to service. Our rail yards are not safe environments for riders under any circumstances. It is necessary for our transit system to function safely and effectively every day. 

 We fully support and appreciate the recent motion made by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger to look for ways to increase cooperation between L.A. County and Metro on homelessness issues as we consider improvements to the implementation of this and other policies. Homelessness is not just a Metro issue. It is a societal challenge, and we will work cooperatively with the county to effectively integrate joint homeless outreach strategies. We look forward to facilitating greater cooperation to provide services to the unhoused who use our system, while minimizing any unintended burden on local communities."