Bass under fire as homeless people moved between hotels

Four weeks ago, Mayor Karen Bass’ homelessness team found a warm place indoors for Princeton Parker, a 38-year-old living in a tent on the Westside of Los Angeles.

Parker was thrilled with his move to the Silver Lake Hotel, on the edge of Silver Lake and historic Filipinotown. The rooms were large and his camp friends were nearby. “I felt like I had a home,” he said.

Princeton Parker was moved from a Westside tent to the Silver Lake Hotel last month. He has since been moved to two other hotels.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

But that arrangement was turned upside down last week when Bass’ Operation Inside Safe abruptly moved him and about 20 others to a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. When that location didn’t work out, Parker was then sent to a third hotel in Hollywood. Since then, he has felt alone and isolated.

“I was extremely excited” to be at the Silver Lake Hotel, the former Pasadena resident said. “And they just took that from me.”

The comings and goings at the Silver Lake hotel show some of the logistical challenges Bass faces as she seeks to move 1,000 people inside through her Inside Safe program by Tuesday, her 100th day in office. Bass expects the city to have housed a total of 4,000 people during that time. (Most of the remaining 3,000 people are being helped by initiatives put in place before Bass took office.)

So far, at least two of the mayor’s 13 Inside Safe operations have resulted in the transfer of homeless people from one hotel to another, and sometimes a third, prompting pointed complaints from homeless advocates.

“The whole point of Inside Safe is basically to get people off the streets permanently,” said Meggie Kelley, who volunteers with Fairfax Mutual Aid, which provides food and other resources to homeless Angelenos. “Moving them from place to place doesn’t give them stability. It takes people away from the community they have.

The situation also highlighted the lack of temporary housing available for the mayor in parts of LA.

Last month, Bass and his Inside Safe team moved 43 people — including Parker — out of homeless encampments on or near 6th Street and Fairfax Avenue. The region is represented by Councilor Katy Yaroslavsky, who took part in the operation. But because his Westside neighborhood doesn’t have enough short-term housing, those residents were moved to the Silver Lake Hotel in the neighborhood represented by council member Hugo Soto-Martinez.

Leo Daube, a spokesman for Yaroslavsky, said his boss contacted Soto-Martinez in advance about using the hotel. “We reached out … to make sure they were okay with it, because it’s in their district,” he said. “And Hugo graciously accepted.”

For many, the stay did not last long.

On Monday, Bass’ Inside Safe program began moving about half of 6th and Fairfax people out of the Silver Lake hotel and to other locations – the LA Grand Hotel downtown and the West Inn Hotel in Hollywood. Some protested, saying they did not want to be uprooted.

The next day, a new group of homeless people were brought to the Silver Lake Hotel, this time from the Soto-Martinez neighborhood. That day, Inside Safe began targeting several locations near Lake Echo Park.

Soto-Martinez promised during the campaign last year that he would remove the fence that surrounds the lake, which was erected in 2021 as part of a controversial cleanup of a huge homeless encampment. He assured park neighbors that he would work to keep homeless people from returning to the park. His first public meeting on the removal of the fence took place on Thursday, just as Operation Inside Safe at Echo Park was winding down.

In an interview, Soto-Martinez said there was no connection between Operation Echo Park, which moved 56 people inside, and his plan to remove the fence from Lake Echo Park. “We worked on those two things independently,” he said.

Soto-Martinez declined to say whether his Echo Park Inside Safe operation ended up pushing others out of the Silver Lake hotel. This issue, he said, should be dealt with by the mayor.

“Hotels, and where people go, is something the mayor coordinates,” he said.

Bass assistant Zach Seidl disputed the idea that people had been moved from the Silver Lake Hotel to make way for the homeless residents of Soto-Martinez. The relocation effort, he said, was made to “improve living conditions for 6th and Fairfax residents.”

Seidl did not provide additional details. Meanwhile, Bass seemed appalled at the treatment of residents of 6th and Fairfax Camp.

Bass said encampments are “little communities” that serve as support systems for their inhabitants. Spreading people from the same encampment to three different hotels is “not what I want to see happen,” she said.

Bass said she’s trying to move with urgency, getting people off the streets even though some aspects of Inside Safe aren’t fully developed. She said she can’t guarantee the same situation won’t happen again – if, for example, her office finds trouble with a particular hotel.

“If we find the need to move people, we will,” she said.

Seidl, the deputy mayor, said the Silver Lake Hotel was never intended to be a long-term housing option for 6th and Fairfax residents.

Carolyn Shayne Smith, who stayed at the Silver Lake Hotel, said she received a different message.

Smith, who came from 6th and the Fairfax area last month, said she and other camp residents were told when they moved in that they would be staying at the hotel for up to a year, or until they are connected to permanent accommodation. The 53-year-old said that was why she was shocked to learn from an outreach worker that they were being moved to another location after less than a month.

Carolyn Shayne Smith was moved from her homeless encampment in the 6th and Fairfax Ward last month to the Silver Lake Hotel.

Carolyn Shayne Smith was moved last month from a homeless encampment to the Silver Lake Hotel. She rebuffed recent efforts to relocate her to another hotel.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Some residents of Fairfax 6th and Camp were just getting to know the surrounding neighborhood and used the Silver Lake Hotel as a return address when ordering ID, Smith said.

Smith, who worked in interior design until she suffered a major health crisis, said she demanded an explanation. An outreach worker responded, she said, telling her that everyone had to move to make room for homeless people arriving from the Soto-Martinez neighborhood.

“They said, ‘We need to move you to another hotel, we’ll be here Monday at 9:30 a.m. – get ready and get ready,'” Smith said.

Smith and several others challenged the decision, contacting relief workers and Yaroslavsky staff, who helped to advocate on their behalf. Eighteen people from 6th and Fairfax camp ultimately stayed, according to the mayor’s office. Smith was among them.

Others did not challenge the move. Parker, for example, boarded the bus for LA Grand Monday and immediately had second thoughts after learning some of the establishment’s rules.

Mayor Karen Bass, left, and council member Katy Young Yaroslavsky visit an encampment in 6th and Fairfax on February 16.

Mayor Karen Bass, left, council member Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Anita Wells, the mayor’s director of community outreach, tour a homeless encampment at 6th and Fairfax on February 16.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Parker said he and other newcomers were told LA Grand residents weren’t allowed to have guests, visit each other’s rooms or congregate in the hallways. “You’re like a prisoner all the time,” he said.

Parker said he tried the LA Grand for one night and then moved on. He tried unsuccessfully to return to the Silver Lake Hotel. He is now at the West Inn Hotel in Hollywood, away from his other friends.

Yaroslavsky, when asked about the situation at the Silver Lake Hotel, said she was grateful to Bass for his response to the homelessness crisis. She also said her office, the mayor’s team and Soto-Martinez staff have been working to meet the needs of homeless people who have left her district.

“What matters is that everyone who previously lived on 6th and Fairfax still had a roof over their head and didn’t fall back into homelessness,” she said.

Los Angeles Times

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