Friday Feb 10 2023
Letter to Mayor’s Office and Council District 5 Office - ‘Inside Safe’ Urgent Asks
On December 21, 2022 Mayor Karen Bass signed an Executive Directive launching Inside Safe, Los Angeles’ citywide strategy to bring unhoused people living outside in tents and encampments inside, in effort to “prevent encampments from returning”.
The Mayor’s Office has been moving forward with their urgent and chaotic approach to address the homelessness crisis. So far there have been four Inside Safe operations at Cahugenga and the 101 Freeway in Hollywood (CD4), West 87th Street and Western Avenue in South LA (CD8) and Sunset Avenue and Hampton Drive as well as Culver Boulevard and South Slauson Avenue both located in Venice (CD11).
In our response to these operations, we want to emphasize that we don’t want to negate the people who are ultimately happy to have rooms when entering the Inside Safe program. But simultaneously, we also don’t want to negate that some people have been offered more stability, better living conditions and a trauma-informed approach than others. The inconsistency of the operations and lack of wraparound services and food security is a serious issue and has been falling on unpaid mutual aid organizations and volunteers to provide these resources without reimbursement or acknowledgment from coucilemembers or the city. People in Traci Park’s district are still being pushed around from motel to motel, have not received adequate food and are being yelled at by caseworkers.
The goal of these demands is to emphasize the harms that have been caused to people’s health and safety during these operations. If the Mayor’s Office is removing people from the street and putting them out of sight into hotel rooms, people must be offered basic resources providing the stability and support they need behind closed doors.
The following demands letter was written for the Mayor’s Office and the Council District 5 Office to address harms that people have experienced or are still experiencing from previous Inside Safe operations in addition to advocating for people living at the site of an uncoming Inside Safe operation happening at 6th Avenue and Fairfax Avenue, adjacent to LACMA.
As discussed we wanted to share some examples of the harmful practices we observed during the Inside Safe operations in CD11 these last weeks. We know a lot of our unhoused neighbors are feeling hopeful about receiving permanent housing but, at the same time, wary due to larger systemic failures, including past initiatives like Project Roomkey.
We urge the Mayor’s Office and Councilwoman Yaroslavky’s Office to address this list of observations and potential solutions, and in doing so, reduce the harm that this initiative has already caused, and could in the future cause, our unhoused neighbors
Thank you for working with us and keeping us updated this last week.
Fairfax Mutual Aid, Free Food Collective, Mar Vista Voice, Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid, and Venice Justice Committee
- Have a clear plan, timeline, and process in place and clearly communicate what that plan, timeline, and process is to unhoused residents and stick to it. Provide a point of contact that is informed and able to field questions.
- At past operations, residents were given very little information about how the operation would progress. Caseworkers also seemed to have a limited understanding of what they were doing and what the timeline of the process in that very moment would be. This produced significant distress.
- Have a process in place so that people who don’t have IDs aren’t denied access to motel rooms or proximate motel locations.
- Residents of encampments were not informed of the documentation they would need nor were services provided to facilitate the procurement of such documentation. Since people were placed at multiple hotels with different rules some locations accepted ID copies while others; some locations only accepted physical IDs.
- Ensure a sufficient number of ADA accommodations and that the specific needs of residents have been identified prior to operationalizing the program. Documentation of disability should not be required.
- Residents were at times denied a request to be accommodated in ADA rooms, despite having different abilities. In some circumstances residents were asked to choose between keeping their pet or having their disability accommodated.
- Do not move people far from their existing homes unless they request such. Offer free transit passes for everyone, particularly for those who are being moved far from where they were living because of extenuating circumstances.
- Location is huge. Many people have outright rejected the program because they were told they would have to move far from their home, community, and support. This was particularly problematic for people being placed in motels far from their jobs.
- Ahead of the Inside Safe move, post signage of the Inside Safe schedule at least 72 hours in advance so people have notice.
- This didn’t happen at previous operations
- Don’t require residents to destroy their tents in order to receive a motel voucher.
- What we observed previously: Sanitation required that residents be recorded agreeing to destroy their tents in order to receive a motel voucher. Filming people like this is inhumane and any care-oriented process would NEVER ask this of anyone.
- No “one tent to one room” rule. People are not tents.
- There was a one tent to one room rule and in certain circumstances people who didn’t want to share a room were being forced to share a room (e.g., domestic violence survivors, people in a platonic relationship)
- Vehicle dwellers along the Culver Bike Path were denied access to hotel rooms because they did not have a tent to exchange for a room.
- Ensure people with cars are able to bring them to the motel free of charge.
- Inform residents of the name and location of their motels, and upon arrival make sure there is someone there to greet them, explain how long they’ll be able to stay, and provide residents with written documentation of any motel rules or policies.
- Residents were not informed prior to moving of the name and location of their motel. There was no one to greet them upon arrival and explain how long they would be able to stay and if someone would be doing intake.
- We believe CD5 is doing a better job at relaying this information as it is received than CD11 has done; we want this to be the standard across the City. The Mayor’s Office is not giving the Council District offices or the people who are being affected sufficient notice of the name and locations of Inside Safe locations, the resources offered there, and the details of the operation over the medium- and long-term.
- Provide bin bags and/or access to storage space.
- Bin bags were not provided and, as a result, people’s personal belongings were trashed because they were unable to take their belongings to motels with them.
- Given that previous Inside Safe operations took from several hours to several days, provide full meals, snacks, and water throughout the day.
- Residents of encampments were told they had to stay put all day long, if they left they were at risk of losing a spot. They were not provided any food during this time. This stretched to multiple days for some residents.
- Ensure that there are trauma-informed mental health workers present throughout the Inside Safe moving day. LAPD officers should not be present nor should they be involved in the operation prior to moving day.
- No mental health or trauma-informed care/support was present at previous operations. Understandably, such operations created crises for residents.
- Ensure that there are staff and caseworkers on hand that speak Spanish.
- Make sure women and femmes are being advocated for and are having their needs met. They should be treated as individuals and caseworkers should work with them privately to ensure that there is no coercion by a potential partner in a choice to stay together.
- Caseworkers, when talking to couples in tents, tend to only talk to one partner. This is especially troubling in cases of Domestic Violence. Trauma informed care means each person in a tent, regardless of their relationship status, talks privately with a case worker to have their needs addressed.
- If Sanitation is showing up, they should not show up until after everyone has moved to decrease unnecessary trauma and commotion and eliminate the need for law enforcement.
- Ensure that unhoused neighbors have permission to chat with mutual aid group advocates if they’d like additional support.
- In the past, city officials, sanitation workers, and/or LAPD have barred advocates from speaking with and supporting unhoused neighbors.
- Ensure people’s caseworkers can be there during the day of the move.
- In the past, many people didn’t have case workers advocating for them due to case workers having a heavy caseload. People were contacting their new and old caseworkers and they weren’t responding.
- Ensure that motels are offering fresh, well-balanced meals, snacks, and drinks for residents.
- Food is not adequate at motels. Many residents are hungry and advocates are having to supply food so people are not going hungry. $50 Gift Cards to Ralphs handed out seemingly at random is not a programmatic solution.
- Ensure that motels are clean and pest-free with sufficient bedding, toiletries, and towels.
- There has been a lack of bedding, toiletries and towels at some locations.
- Provide dumpsters during the week prior to the operation for people to discard their trash.
- Bring wraparound services to anyone left behind. Don’t just treat them as disposable because they did not accept the motel. They are the ones who need even more support because of lack of trust and will also be at risk from actions of unkind neighbors.
Encampment residents have been less likely to accept hotels when there has been lack of clarity about location, rules, and whether they can bring all of their valuables. Once in a hotel, they have been less satisfied and more likely to leave if they are far from their community/family/job/resources and if there are restrictive regulations.
Saturday Dec 24 2022
End of Year Update - Reflecting on 2022 ︎
It is no secret that 2022 has been a big and challenging year for us at Fairfax Mutual Aid. Many of you know that were were previously operating as the Street Watch's Mid-City local for over two-and-a-half years. On Sunday, August 21st, 2022, we lost our funding source and were given two weeks notice to submit all reimbursements. Even though this was a stressful time for many of us who had been dependent on DSA-LA to provide funding for material aid, we felt the autonomy of forming our own organization and doing our own fundraising would be beneficial. Becoming FxMA has allowed us to come up with our own shared values and purpose as well as imagine our bigger dreams together.
When we reflect on 2022 we are also reflect on the horrific things we've witnessed and heard about in the past year. Fairfax Mutual Aid exists first and foremost because we believe our unhoused constituents are being severely neglected and criminalized by the City of Los Angeles as well as by many other neighboring cities in Los Angeles County. Unhoused people are being swept away daily with no offers of housing or services, and we have all been witnesses to it. The City of Los Angeles is authorizing the severing of community support and the disposal of essential belongings owned by our most vulnerable community members.
Paul Koretz's office has continuously neglected our unhoused neighbors in Council District 5. Since he took office in 2013 homelessness has gone up 175% in his district. It is a fact that encampment sweeps and LAMC Section 41.18 are ineffective solutions to end the homelessness crisis. Not only do they isolate and criminalize people living below the poverty line in Los Angeles, but they are extremely costly. We refuse to sit silently until the sweeps stop, 41.18 is repealed and permanent supportive housing with wraparound services is offered to those living on the streets.
It is our shared purpose as an organization to cultivate solidarity with our unhoused neighbors as well as build relationships with other mutual aid organizations in Los Angeles. As Dean Spade writes in his book Mutual Aid: Solidarity During This Crisis “Without connection, we end up with disconnected groups, working in their issue silos, undermining each other, competing for attention and funding, not backing each other up and not building power. Mutual aid projects, by creating spaces where people come together on the basis of some shared need or concern in spite of their different and lived experience, cultivate solidarity.” There is so much wonderful solidarity work happening throughout Los Angeles, we are most especially grateful for all the support and endless inspiration from other organizations in our coalition including: Palms Unhoused Mutual Aid (PUMA), LA Neighbors for Neighbors (LAN4N), Free Food Collective, South Bay Mutual Aid and Care Club (SBMACC), Mar Vista Voice and Home-y Made Meals.
It took a big push for get all our logistics in order after we lost funding from Street Watch in August. This push included naming ourselves, creating an identity and shared values, banking, fundraising, making a website, generating social media accounts, all while continuing to do weekly outreach, encampment sweep support and participating in call-to-action events around Los Angeles. We are grateful for Open Collective making this transition so much easier for us.
Finally, we have so much gratitude for all the monetary contributions we have received in the past few months since establishing ourselves at Fairfax Mutual Aid. Our efforts are 100% volunteer-led and 100% grassroots funded and we could not do the work we do without the donations we have received. Fairfax Mutual Aid includes all the people who have donated.
As 2022 comes to an end, we reflect on all the lessons we learned from the past year and we look forward to 2023 and learning more ways to be a better and more sustainable organization who advocates for our unhoused neighbors.