Homeless encampment at park in Eagle Rock draws mixed feelings

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Homeless encampment at park in Eagle Rock draws mixed feelings

Tents are pitched across the street from a park in Eagle Rock. Photo by Christopher Lazaro

Tents are pitched across the street from a park in Eagle Rock. Photo by Christopher Lazaro

Tents are pitched across the street from a park in Eagle Rock. Photo by Christopher Lazaro

Tents are pitched across the street from a park in Eagle Rock. Photo by Christopher Lazaro

Christopher Lazaro, Community News Reporter

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The Eagle Rock recreation center is a place where children from a nearby school go for gym class.

It’s the spot where kids whose families have lived for generations in the neighborhood play alongside children who are new to the area.

It’s also adjacent to two rows of about half a dozen tents and several cars housing the homeless.

Some local residents say they don’t care because homeless folks need a place to stay and the encampment isn’t near the main areas of the park; It’s on the sidewalks at the south end of the park, underneath the freeways. Others say they don’t like having to walk past the encampment because of used needles and strewn around the area.

The encampment has been the bane of Jonathan Sanchez, the center’s recreation coordinator, because he’d like to see the area as safe as possible and he’d like neighborhood residents to be able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and activities at the center.

“I emailed the city four times about this issue but still haven’t gotten a response from them,” Sanchez said in his office.

He has also made the neighborhood council aware of the problem. The council has been busy trying to get the city to make the rec center and park ADA compliant.

Sanchez said while it’s frustrating, he understands the root of the problem is the region’s housing crisis, which seems to be leaving more people without homes.

“I called the police to kick them out – only for them to come back a week later. I saw a homeless person shooting up heroin at the park, leaving their dirty needles behind them. A school nearby the park comes here to do PE their classes, and have to walk pass by the trash they leave and even the encampment, at times,” Sanchez said. “And with the price of housing going on the rise it’s difficult for a person to afford housing [so they] end up living in the streets.”

The average cost of rent in Los Angeles is about $2,371 per month – a seven percent increase from last year when it was $2,220 per month, according to RentCafe.com, which compiles data from its sister company, Yardi Matrix, an apartment market intelligence solution offering information on all Los Angeles apartment buildings 50 units or larger.

Some folks who live and work in the area said the homeless encampment doesn’t bother them.

Samantha Taylor, a teacher for a preschool at the Eagle Rock recreation center, said it’s not a problem: “It’s not really an issue for me. I’m always working at the preschool center and the homeless don’t usually come around to this area of the park.”

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to UTCommunityNews@gmail.com.

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