The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to spend $1.5 million for used mobile homes that may provide refuge for homeless families leaving the city's so-called urban campground, a dusty, 12-acre temporary shelter set to close Sept. 25.
But even as council members unanimously supported the action, the final hurdle for acquiring 102 of the trailers from a Utah public-utilities agency, officials were hurriedly struggling to answer thorny questions about how the mobile homes should be distributed throughout the city.
Under plans favored by Mayor Tom Bradley, who initiated the purchase, about 90 of the trailers will be scattered at low-income housing projects operated by the city's Housing Authority, Deputy Mayor Grace Davis said. Additional trailers may be placed at churches or synagogues that are willing to oversee the trailers and provide services to families that temporarily occupy them, she said.
But the predominance of city housing projects in Watts and communities near Los Angeles Harbor mean that about 60 of the trailers will be placed in those largely blue-collar areas, according to Davis.
Strip of Land
Watts has four major housing projects. Additional projects exist in Wilmington, San Pedro and Harbor Gateway, the strip of land that connects downtown with the harbor area.
City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents those communities, is planning to fight the plan because of concerns over crime, aide Dennis McCarbery said. Questions of which communities should handle the homeless problem could lead to a political showdown as the council nears a vote on the issue in coming weeks, some city officials predicted.
"Everybody should be helping to deal with the homeless," McCarbery said in an interview Friday. "If (our) district ends up getting two-thirds of the trailers or half the trailers . . . there's something wrong with the formula."
Davis said the mayor's office expects to meet next week with Flores to try to resolve the issue. But she acknowledged that time is short and more-affluent communities in West Los Angeles or elsewhere may also be reluctant to accommodate the trailers.
The two- and three-bedroom trailers will be moved from Utah over the next several weeks, she said.
The downtown urban campground at 320 S. Santa Fe Ave., originally was set to close Aug. 10 but the closing date was extended by action of the city and the Southern California Rapid Transit District, which owns the site. The campground is used by about 600 people, including about 45 families, according to city estimates.
Councilman Robert Farrell, who heads the council committee handling the problem, said the trailers should provide shelter for all of the homeless families now at the campground, as well as additional homeless families from elsewhere in the city. They will not be available to single men or women, he said.
If the city is unable to find places for all of the trailers by the time the campground closes, some families will be accommodated by existing help organizations, he said.
Meanwhile, the city is continuing negotiations for additional building space downtown in hopes of providing room for single men and women.