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Reopening of Tent City Pegged to Organizers Obtaining Insurance

January 03, 1987|JERRY BELCHER | Times Staff Writer

Tent City II, which has sheltered about 200 homeless people in downtown Los Angeles for the last week, will be vacated today but reoccupied Monday or Tuesday under a compromise agreement reached late Friday by organizer Ted Hayes and the state Department of General Services.

"They will move out (Saturday) and keep the tents empty until they get a renewed use permit, which is contingent upon getting the liability insurance coverage renewed," said Fred Gustin, deputy director of the GSA, which is legally responsible for the site of the Old State Building on 1st Street.

"It's a major move on the state's part," Hayes said. "This will be a test of our discipline, a test of what we've been saying all along about ourselves--that we (the homeless) are human beings, and we're going to have to observe some discipline. We've caused the state to bend, now we're going to have to do some bending again. We're carrying the heavier load in all this, obviously, and we're just going to ask the people if they will cooperate."

A 5,000-square-foot circus tent, plus about 15 smaller plastic and canvas tents, have been in place at the 1st Street site since Dec. 26. Nearly 1,000 homeless people have been provided free hot meals at the same location each day by the Concerned Citizens for the Community, a volunteer organization in South-Central Los Angeles.

Hayes, president of Home for the Homeless, said the nonprofit corporation has enough cash on hand from donations to pay the $2,500 premium on the $500,000 liability insurance required, but could not get the coverage over the weekend because the insurance brokerage office has been closed for the holidays and will not reopen until Monday.

Hayes said he will ask the homeless who have been staying at Tent City II to leave their shelters late Saturday and join him on a round-the-clock candlelight vigil on the sidewalks along Broadway, 1st and Spring streets, and on the parking lot at the rear of the site until the state permit is renewed.

The purpose of the vigil, he said, will be to let "the people know that the homeless plight continues."

He said the vigil would have to be done in relays. "We're not sure how many," he said. "Those who are not strong enough, I have no idea where they will go. But the vigil is better than nothing. If they can stay with us on the sidewalk until Monday morning, as a test of our endurance . . . (it) will be another opportunity to show the American people that we are not to be thrown away, to cooperate with us and help us."

A few organizers will be permitted to stay on the site to stand watch over the tents, which are on loan to the Hayes organization, according to Gustin.

At a news conference earlier Friday, Hayes said he was hoping that the state would waive the insurance requirement entirely until Monday. He said that both he and Mayor Tom Bradley had asked Gov. George Deukmejian's office to allow the waiver.

At the same news conference, Hayes revealed that he has taken the first step toward filing as a candidate for the vacant 10th District council seat vacated by former Councilman David Cunningham. The city clerk's office confirmed that Hayes filed a statement of intention to solicit funds on Dec. 26, the same day that Tent City II opened.

'Skid Row, Death Row'

Hayes said he had not definitely decided to seek the council seat.

Hayes also said he hoped that Tent City II could have its permit extended month by month until 1988, when the construction of a $120-million, 20-story office building is to get under way. He said the building could include a "reception center" for the homeless who are coming to Los Angeles in increasing numbers. That would prevent them from "falling into Skid Row, which is really Death Row," Hayes said.

In addition, he said, he would like to see other tent cities for homeless people established in each of Los Angeles' 15 council districts and indicated that Councilman Robert Farrell had expressed interest in setting up such a facility in his 8th District, which includes South-Central Los Angeles. Farrell could not be reached for comment.

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