February 12, 2019
Next, fingers began pointing at a possible culprit: the homelessness crisis. Councilman Joe Buscaino took the floor at a City Council meeting Friday, saying, “Rats are emblematic of how we lost control over the homeless trash and encampment issue.
Even then, when the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health declared an outbreak of typhus October 4, the city designated Skid Row a high-risk area for typhus. Almost immediately, Mayor Eric Garcetti allocated an extra $300,000 for cleanup and sanitation efforts.
“It is easy to blame folks who are unhoused, who are living on the streets of Los Angeles, who are living in encampments,” says Shayla Myers, an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation who focuses on issues related to housing and homelessness.
Notably, Pasadena saw more cases of typhus even while the city’s homeless population pales in comparison to downtown L.A.’s—677 and 1,552, respectively, according to the latest homeless count. None of the cases in Pasadena involved homeless individuals.
The declaration of an outbreak came one day after a highly contentious meeting at City Hall, where a group of 60 downtown residents and business owners voiced frustrations over the conditions in homeless encampments. Ten days before the declaration, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, a law firm that represents low-income clients, sent a letter to Garcetti raising concerns about the legality of increased cleanups that allow for the “seizure and destruction of individuals’ belongings without affording them any legal protections.”
“At face value, it appears to me that there’s a hidden agenda,” Page said.