Help sought as Lincoln Heights employees clash with folks experiencing homelessness

Groups like Illumination Foundation provide services for unhoused residents

More stories from Braylin Collins

Residents of Illumination Foundation enjoying time outside by (Braylin Collins,_UT)

Residents of Illumination Foundation enjoying time outside.(Braylin Collins/UT)

Of the long list of improvements Lincoln Heights residents are seeking for their community — rent stabilization, more affordable housing, better parking — none seem to be more urgent for some than addressing affordable housing and homelessness.

Affordable housing, unhoused populations and safety concerns also came up frequently in a survey by the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council on the city’s “5 Lots” project. For instance, the word “homeless” came up about 40 times and the words “safety” or “safe” came up about two dozen times. Residents are particularly concerned about the safety issue and the number of people experiencing homelessness near Broadway St. and Lincoln Park Ave.

At any point of the day, on Broadway — a main thoroughfare and the area’s main commercial strip — you can spot at least a handful of unhoused people on the street. 

Most businesses on the street have open doors, welcoming anyone in. Sometimes, some experiencing homelessness simply ask for help or a place to nap.

At Dollar World, employees say homeless folks visit daily.

”At times, we do what we can to try to assist them, but there’s only so much we can do because we can’t just give them things for free. Some come in and ask for help or small things like using the restroom, or how much hygiene products are, and when they are in a good state of mind, it puts us at ease as we try to help them. But sadly, there are also the cases when they are scary,” said Jackie Solis, a cashier at Dollar World. “They come in and often try to steal, or harass our customers and workers. We have had multiple instances where they have come in and caused issues in the store.”

Unfortunately, some situations even get violent.

Maria Alvarez, a cashier at Raspados Nayarit, described a situation that happened inside the fruit shop just weeks ago.

“Two homeless men came into the store and they were arguing and yelling at each other. They started to fight and one of them pulled out a knife. We have little protection here between us and the customers; I feared for my life because there’s no telling what they could have done.”

The Illumination Foundation, which is on Lincoln Park Ave. across the street from Lincoln Park, is addressing several issues residents have raised.

The organization works directly with hospitals in the area to help house and provide services to homeless people that need or have received medical attention.

Along with offering a free, safe place for those experiencing homelessness to stay, the group offers services like ID and Social Security assistance, insurance, benefits, substance abuse assistance, and medical assistance.

The organization has seen the most success with its Case Management and Housing.

“Our program provides services where they teach financial literacy and stability. Once we determine that the person is well enough established financially as well as physically and mentally, we offer our services to help find them a home of their own,” said Lizett Gomez, who works at Illumination Foundation. 

Two of the group’s clients were standing outside its building and shared their gratitude for its programs, including one who said he’s currently in the process of healing from medical procedures offered by the foundation and is close to “starting over” with a new place of his own.

Though the foundation houses a maximum of 52 members at a time, the number of homeless folks in the Lincoln Heights community was last reported to be more than five times greater, according to the Los Angeles County Homelessness and Housing Map.