Elvis Summers, a 38-year-old musician, came up with a brilliant, temporary solution to immediately help L.A.’s homeless men and women: Build tiny houses for them. The idea was an instant smash. The homeless loved their small, custom-made homes, and people from around the globe sent Summers financial donations to keep his project going. What was Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council members’ reaction? They wanted the tiny houses gone, destroyed, out of the way.
It’s an odd thing. Widely known as the “hipster” mayor, Garcetti usually can’t resist supporting such creative altruism. This time, though, he took the side of L.A. City Councilman Curren Price, who essentially ordered city workers to “clean up” a tiny houses encampment in South L.A., according to news reports.
Garcetti spokeswoman Connie Llanos told the L.A. Times, “Unfortunately, these structures can be hazardous to the individuals living in them and to the community at large.”
Um, living on L.A.’s streets night after night with no roof over your head can be hazardous, too.
And while Summers took decisive action, L.A.’s elected officials are still trying to figure out ways to address a massive, citywide homeless crisis that forced them to declare a “state of emergency” in September 2015.
That’s five months ago, if you’re counting.
In addition, Garcetti and the City Council’s fondness for luxury housing development has only contributed to the homeless crisis. Remember what the Rev. Alice Callaghan, a longtime social justice activist based in DTLA’s Skid Row, recently told us.
“Thirty years ago,” Callaghan said, “there were 6,767 housing units on Skid Row and non-profit developers fought to add 824 more. All their hard work has been lost. Destruction of housing for the poor on Skid Row left us with a net loss 3,115 units. My own door-to-door survey in 2014 found just 3,652 units left. The rest were destroyed by developers and conversions to luxury buildings.”
As the homeless wait for city officials to get their acts together, we demand that Garcetti stops the destruction of Summers’ tiny houses. After all, L.A. is facing an emergency, and inventive measures such as tiny houses should be welcomed, not thwarted.
The mayor, for example, can find a plot of city-owned land for the small homes, create a tiny houses community with supervision and rules, and bring immediate relief to homeless people who desperately need it.
At the same, Garcetti and the City Council need to move more quickly on truly addressing L.A.’s homeless crisis — and that won’t be done with a handful of “affordable” units in a luxury housing high-rise.
(Top image from Tiny Houses Facebook page)