The homeless problem in Los Angeles has reached such horrendous levels that business owners have erected fences on the sidewalk to clear the way.
The Guardian reports that neighborhoods in both Skid Row and South Central have seen fully-erected chain-link fences pushing out from the place of business to the edge of the sidewalk. One homeless man named Gabe described it like a prison.
“They put the whole sidewalk inside the fence,” said Gabe. “I felt like we were in prison on the sidewalk. It felt like we were in prison and could get out, but still in prison, you know what I mean?”
“They push people to the back streets where there’s no lights,” he continued. “Where it’s not safe.”
Community organizers and homeless advocates have said the fences violate public space.
“Business owners don’t own the sidewalk,” said General Dogon, a longtime community organizer at the Skid Row-based Los Angeles Community Action Network. “The sidewalk is designed as a public space. It’s for everyone.”
Other parts of the city have employed other measures to keep the homeless away from businesses, such as sprinklers, spikes on the ground, and benches with arms to prevent public sleeping. A homeless man named José Luis said that planters in South Central have replaced the “home” he built for himself outside a building. Many of the homeless have left the area and now camp further out onto the sidewalk, thus blocking pedestrians.
Aside from fences, Los Angeles has battled its crippling homeless problem in other ways; one involves guest houses in people’s backyards. According to the Los Angeles Times, the county Board of Supervisors approved back in August a “$550,000 pilot program to build a handful of small backyard houses, or upgrade illegally converted garages, for homeowners who agree to host a homeless person or family.”
In Orange County, proposals have been made to create homeless encampments in empty lots.