By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Misinformation circulated Pacific Palisades earlier this week about the city of Los Angeles developing alternate plans to house the homeless population through the COVID-19 pandemic and that Palisades Recreation Center would no longer be considered to be used as a temporary homeless shelter.
Department of Recreation and Parks Commissioner Joe Halper said there hasn’t been a change in policy to purpose recreation centers as shelters.
“It was an unfortunate misinterpretation,” Halper said to the Palisadian-Post. “At this time, there are no plans for or any additional centers identified to serve as shelters that I know of … The recreation centers are designated to serve the city to provide shelter in emergencies, most recently they served that purpose for the Pacific Palisades community during the wildfires.”
Halper said four additional recreation centers were activated recently: Pecan, Van Nuys Sherman Oaks, Shadow Ranch and Lake Street—bringing the total to 24. Alex Comisar, deputy communications director for Mayor Eric Garcetti, confirmed that the Palisades center remains on the list of potential future sites.
As a separate effort to house the homeless population and protect them from the spread of COVID-19, LA County announced Project Roomkey earlier this month, an initiative to house homeless individuals in hotels.
The county has a goal of securing 15,000 hotel and motel rooms that will operate as temporary shelters. The first hotel site of this effort opened on April 3.
Communications Specialist for Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Chris Yee said that although Project Roomkey is underway, it does not mean that recreation centers will no longer be used.
“While we expect to see the loads lightened at some of the recreation centers, the goal is still to use all the beds available,” Yee said in an email to the Post. “The emergency shelters at recreation centers are for people who don’t qualify for Project Roomkey but are seeking shelter.”
Although the future remains unclear for Palisades Recreation Center, efforts from the community continue to combat its use as an emergency homeless shelter.
Palisadian Susie Forte Gilman recently filed court papers against the city to stop the recreation center from being used.
“There are a variety of concerns that prompted this suit, but the overarching reason for it was the threat that the city’s plan causes to the homeless population and the residents near the recreation centers,” Gilman said to the Post.
Gilman said that the city’s decision defies logic and that there is evidence of this disease being highly contagious and traveling easier indoors.
Gilman also shared her concerns: residents being able to roam the park and neighborhood without interference, without being screened for symptoms beforehand—and she doesn’t know how temporary this solution is.
“The city has not given an end date for when they would allow recreation centers to go back to being recreation centers and stop being homeless shelters,” Gilman said. “It appears that there is nothing temporary about these shelters so there is an urgency to stop our rec center from being used in this misguided program that the city is doing.
“I pray that the city can … realize that shelters are dangerous, and enact emergency legislation getting our homeless brethren into single-unit rooms where they have a much higher chance of steering clear of this disease.”
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