LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In a city where more than 40,000 residents are living on the street, dozens and dozens of travel trailers are sitting unused in parking lots.
The trailers, gifts from the state to help house the homeless in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be found locked up in a yard next to Dodger Stadium and in a lot at the Los Angeles Zoo.
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“To just let these trailers sit there and go to waste, is hard to comprehend,” Daniel Conway, an adviser for the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, said.
The Alliance sued the city and county last year in an effort to compel local leaders to solve the crisis, getting a judge to rule that housing must be offered to all skid row residents by October of this year.
Still, the trailers sit unoccupied.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking given the immediate need of tens of thousands of people in L.A. to see those free resources from the state just sitting there unused,” Conway said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last year gave the trailers to cities across the state. The 1,300 trailers, purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cost California taxpayers $50 million.
Ten of those trailers were delivered to St. Joseph Center in South Los Angeles.
“It’s interim housing, but is absolutely home, yes,” Dr. Va Lecia Adams-Kellum, president and CEO of the center, said.
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The group uses the trailers to transition people from living on the streets or in their cars to more permanent shelter.
“It does really allow for privacy and a really nice way for families to get back on their feet,” Adams-Kellum said.
Adams-Kellum said her organization could use more.
And while the fire department was seen towing a few of the stored trailers to use for mobile vaccination sites and officials said other city departments use them as well, they mostly sit unoccupied.
And though the city spent more than $1.3 million in taxpayer money to repair and install 316 trailers for unhoused residents last year, the project was stopped at the end of the year.
Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to spend $1 billion to combat the city’s homelessness crisis. A spokesperson for his office said the trailers were just too costly to use because they have to be hooked up to water and sewage lines and need constant maintenance.
According to the spokesperson, it is cheaper to put people up in hotels. But critics said solving the city’s homelessness crisis is worth every dollar.
“It’s really hard to reconcile his announcement last week of a billion dollars in spending and his efforts to basically do whatever it takes and at the same time he’s had these trailers sitting there for months going unused,” Conway said.
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According to the city, 125 of the trailers will be donated to Volunteers of America and other organizations. The mayor’s office said all of the trailers would be moved off the lots where they are currently stored, but would not be used to house the homeless.