LOS ANGELES - Echo Park has turned into a ghost town after city officials moved out a well-established homeless community that used the park as their home base.
But those who called the park home say they're mourning the loss Monday night.
"We've been allowed to just grow as a community," said Ayman Ahmed, a former Echo Park resident. "And we did. We grew and we thrived."
Ahmed called Echo Park home for more than a year.
"We had the kitchen. We had the showers. We did things together and anybody that was there from housed to unhoused can attest to the peace and the love that was in the park these past few months," Ahmed said.
He was one of the last people removed from the park, arrested after a week of rising tensions and protests. Ahmed says the housing alternatives offered to him and his neighbors were not at all adequate.
"These programs don't care about you. They cycle you out and when the money ends, you're right back out on the streets. We had something stable, not something that moves every few months or a sweep every week," Ahmed said. "Nobody's asking what's going to happen when the hotel ends. It's going to end."
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He joined several dozens of people in a silent candlelight walk and vigil Monday night.
"We’re not marching tonight," said Akili Walker. "We’re mourning tonight for the loss of land and the loss of public will. The park is allegedly for everyone, but now it’s closed to everyone just because there were unhoused people living there."
Community organizer Carlos Marroquin said the clearing of Echo Park Lake doesn't erase the community's homelessness issue.
"Permanent housing is what we need, these are just bandaids for a solution," Marroquin said. "It’s not comprehensive and I don’t think anything can really be solved until people recognize that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people are out here for different reasons, and they need different amounts of help."
After walking around the perimeter of the park, which is now undergoing a $500,000 repair project, the group left candles in front of Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell's office. Ahmed hopes that local leaders will make some immediate changes to address LA's homelessness crisis.
"At least stop criminalizing us when we're outside," Ahmed said. "Give us the stability to be in a location, you know?"