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A Warm Place

December 25, 1987

As the temperature drops and the wind blows cold, homeless families find it harder to live on the streets and harder still to find shelter. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley is determined to shelter desperate parents and their children in trailers this winter, but he needs permission from City Council members to put trailers in their districts. So far only Councilman Richard Alatorre has given a go-ahead.

Alatorre allowed three trailers to open Thursday in his district. Three poor families--a mother with five children, a father with three children and a couple with a baby and a toddler--moved into the trailers parked in the Ramona Gardens public-housing project in Boyle Heights. The families may live in the trailers for six months--enough time, perhaps, to allow them to get their lives back in order and find permanent housing.

Alatorre, in a display of compassion, cleared the way after residents of the East Los Angeles housing project had objected. The councilman met with constituents who objected to the trailers, reassured them, then gave the go-ahead for 10 units. His colleagues on the council should follow his lead instead of declaring the trailers a grand idea for every district except their own.

The trailers were purchased, at Bradley's urging, by the city's Community Development Department from a utility company in Utah. The furnished two- and three-bedroom trailers arrived nearly two months ago. Housing authorities had planned to get them into place at public-housing sites quickly, but most members of the council from districts with public-housing sites balked. Councilmen with no public housing in their districts forgot about it instead of coming up with alternative sites like churches, synagogues and nonprofit agencies.

Bradley and Alatorre deserve credit for taking the lead. Sheltering homeless people is legally a county responsibility, but the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has not taken the responsibility seriously enough.

As temperatures drop, hundreds of children and their parents remain desperately in need of warm, clean shelter. Today 99 trailers stand empty. The City Council has an obligation to find sites for them and fill them.

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