Los Angeles comes under criticism for its handling of homelessness after 16 homeless people escape freeway fire

LOS ANGELES (AP) — fire broke out After midnight, 16 people were living under a Los Angeles freeway, including a pregnant woman just weeks away from giving birth.

Fire engulfed the warehouse and the heat from the fire melted some steel guardrails and concrete pillars in the roadway before rescuers were able to get everyone out safely. But the disaster has reignited criticism of public officials’ inability to get homeless residents off the streets. On the streets, tens of thousands of people live in dangerous locations in the nation’s second-largest city.

Three years ago, as part of a court order related to a lawsuit alleging that the city and county of Los Angeles were not doing enough to address homelessness, a judge wrote that he felt sorry for the 7,000 people living under the freeway. Worrying, calling it “very dangerous.” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said officials have since allocated nearly $300 million to create 6,700 shelter bedBut rows of tents and makeshift shelters remain a common sight under overpasses and on highway ramps.

mayor of los angeles Karen Bass and the California government. Gavin Newsom The pressure now is not only to reopen the stretch of Interstate 10 as quickly as possible, but also to find out who started the fire and what oversight the state had over the property. Bass has repeatedly warned against believing homeless residents started the fires, but that hasn’t stopped speculation and accusations.

An attorney for Apex Development Inc., which leases the property, said Wednesday night that the company has complained to city officials multiple times about fires started by homeless people on or near the property. Newsom called the company a “bad actor.” The state is suing Apex to collect $78,000 in back rent on the property.

“Unfortunately, Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass have used this incident to speculate and falsely characterize Apex and its leaders as ‘bad guys’ for their own failure to adequately address homelessness. The returnees create excuses for public safety problems,” attorney Mainak D. Atare said in an emailed statement.

Federal Government Requirements January count It is estimated that on any given night, more than 75,500 people are homeless in the county, including more than 46,000 within the city limits of Los Angeles. Since 2015, homelessness has increased by 70% in the county and 80% in the city. They have sued the city and county multiple times over the years, demanding more action.

Investigators initially determined the fire was intentionally set Behind the fence, businesses are storing materials under I-10, but they say they don’t yet know who started it.

Mel Thielekratner, a homeless advocate and founder of the nonprofit Rain of Hope, said Saturday’s fire could be a horrific human disaster.

“We’re lucky no one was hurt,” he said, “but something like this could happen at any other camp at any time. This is just a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Thielekratner said he hopes disasters like this will bring awareness to how homeless resources and facilities can be placed in more communities to keep people off highways, where pollution and traffic accidents are a major concern. Major dangers.

“We’re talking about one of the busiest highways in the United States,” he said of Interstate 10.

“We know the region needs more resources to help overcome the consequences of structural and systemic inequities,” said Solis, who represents the region where the fires occurred.

Solis said Wednesday that of those evacuated during Saturday’s fire, eight moved into temporary housing, three went to stay with friends and one rejoined a homeless services program.

Business owners who sublease storage facilities say they have expressed concerns for years about fire hazards and other dangers at encampments in the I-10 Industrial Zone.

Rudy Serafin said the number of homeless encampments nearby has been growing steadily since he started stocking supplies for his business under the highway in 2009. He said Serafin Distribution, which supplies office supplies and other items, was unable to get insurance because of concerns about homelessness and people building fires to cook. He said he and other business owners made multiple reports, asking city officials to take action.

“We were calling every week,” he said, adding that the camp was eventually cleared, only to reappear days later.

The city did not respond to a request for comment on whether they received complaints or removed people from the site. Some business owners said there had been previous fires in the area, but the Los Angeles Fire Department could not immediately confirm that.

Yards under highways are common across the state, and funds from the leases will be used for public transportation. Newsom said the practice will be re-evaluated after the fire.

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