Faced with complaints that homeless people flocking to a soup kitchen and an employment agency near City Hall are accosting residents, sleeping on private property and soiling public areas with bodily wastes, the City Council voted to require special permits for all soup kitchens and job agencies.
The main target of the complaints is the House of Yahweh, 4430 W. 147th St., between Hawthorne Boulevard and the Lawndale civic center on Burin Avenue. Next door is American Job Core Inc., an employment agency that specializes in placing temporary industrial help and attracts some of the House of Yahweh clientele looking for day labor.
Peter Paley, director of the Lawndale Chamber of Commerce, said that he sympathizes with the plight of the homeless, but that the negative impact overshadows the good that the operation is doing. Everett Bowman, a chamber board member, said the situation "has gone too far."
Sarah Bertels, a board member of the House of Yahweh, said the soup kitchen feeds an average of 673 people from Lawndale and 11 surrounding towns each week. She said that 17% of the kitchen's clientele are Lawndale residents and that the percentage from Lawndale is disproportionately large.
Sister Michelle, House of Yahweh executive director, asked the council to delay its vote so that residents, House of Yahweh staff and city officials could try to come up with solutions for problems caused by the homeless.
The council voted 4 to 1 to require the special permit, with Councilman Terry Birdsall opposed.
The ordinance requires no specific qualifications for a special permit. Sister Michelle said she feared that the permit requirement would be used to shut down the House of Yahweh, but city officials said the permit would not be withheld unreasonably.
The ordinance will take effect after 30 days, during which the House of Yahweh may continue operating.