In the midst of the homeless epidemic, the City of Azusa comes up with a plan geared to provide services and resources to the homeless as many were forced out of the San Gabriel Valley Riverbed
AZUSA, Calif. – Dozens of people living in the San Gabriel Riverbed and under the Foothill Boulevard bridge near Azusa and its neighboring city, Irwindale, were forced to clear the area Monday as the county prepares for an extensive cleanup. The efforts that will remove the dry brush and debris left from the homeless is part of a plan to decrease fire risk in the area.
The cleanup is expected to take place mid-September and comes as a result of a decision made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and county Flood Control District, according to Azusa City Manager, Sergio Gonzalez.
Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimated 89 people were living in encampments when they informed them that the cleanup was coming soon, according to a report given Monday from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. But LAHSA volunteers who reach out to the riverbed consistently say that the number of homeless in that area is more than 250 people.
Officials told KABC that the safety of the homeless community and residents of neighborhoods near the riverbed is a priority. But as advocates for the homeless raised their concerns regarding the cleanup, officials said they hoped the majority of people living in the encampments would have relocated themselves prior to Monday.
“It’s a whole coalition who are working with our neighbors here on the river, educating them about the various options for them and get them on the list for housing, for services, whatever those may be,” Karren Herra, Deputy City Manager of Duarte told KABC.
According to the City of Azusa, the homeless population has been on the rise since 2015 when the city counted 23 people. In 2019, the City said 321 people were accounted for. Of those 321 people, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that 168 were counted on the street, 57 were in tents, 25 were in makeshift shelters, 35 were in RVs or campers, 17 were in cars and 18 were in emergency shelters.
The city blames the completion of the Metro Gold Line for bringing more homeless people to the area with its last two stops in Azusa. LAHSA reported that out of all the cities included in its Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, Azusa had seen the greatest increase in homeless numbers, rising 127 percent from just last year.
The city’s website says Azusa is experiencing firsthand a multitude of issues from the homeless population. The police department has seen an increase in calls related to homeless concerns and the Azusa Library has seen a rise in patrons who are homeless seeking services in the community.
In May, Azusa was one of five cities in the region to receive a $111,000 grant to enhance county service systems for the homelessness in the East San Gabriel Valley. The grant comes from Measure H, a sales tax fund approved in 2017 to provide resources for the homeless.
“Our City’s individual grant will build capacity to reduce the impact of homelessness by expanding on the work of the library-based Neighborhood Connections program to establish a community-wide approach to homeless solutions and better route for community members experiencing homelessness into the Coordinated Entry System,” the City of Azusa’s website reads.
Gonzalez told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the city has a plan in place with funding from Measure H to find solutions to the homeless epidemic. The plan includes the city hiring managers to directly work with the homeless and to connect them to the appropriate services.
The City currently runs the Neighborhood Connections program at the Azusa City Library to assist those experiencing homelessness or those at-risk and to provide information about employment, housing, healthcare and education.
This is a developing story on zunews.com