Dear City Council Member Paul Koretz,
As you know, for years there has been a free meal distribution line at the corner of Sycamore and Romaine each evening, drawing dozens and sometimes hundreds of people, many of them transients. This food line has become a public nuisance and a blight on our community.
LAPD officers have told us that the food line brings a large number of transients into our residential neighborhood and Poinsettia Park, where some of the transients cause problems. Officials at the West Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have confirmed that they face similar problems in Plummer Park and surrounding blocks.
An outreach worker for People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) told us that most of the homeless individuals in this area are drug addicts, alcoholics, or mentally ill (or a combination of those), and that 85% of the homeless in this area refuse help, saying they prefer to be on the streets. The food line helps them to stay on the streets. That’s why PATH says that stand-alone food lines are not a good idea.
We are particularly concerned about the food line since learning that a transient was recently charged in the 2008 murder of local resident Katan Khaimov near Poinsettia Park.
To address the problems caused by the food line, members of our community participated in a mediation process with the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, which runs the line. Our community members volunteered their time to participate in over a dozen meetings over the course of more than a year. An extremely skilled and caring mediator, Professor Peter Robinson of Pepperdine University, led this process. But the mediation process ultimately failed because the GWHFC refused to change their problem-creating activities in any substantial way, or to take the legitimate concerns of local residents and businesses into account.
At the last meeting they attended, they were especially disturbed to hear GWHFC leader Ted Landreth say that he refused to have the food line in the neighborhood where he lives, South Carthay – which has a large number of homeless people in its vicinity. He insisted that the food line be in our Hollywood/Melrose Village neighborhood instead. That sort of rank hypocrisy – in which someone insists on creating problems for other people that he would not allow near his own home – is simply unacceptable.
They were also very disturbed to hear Ted Landreth continue to say that the residents of the neighborhood should police the streets around Sycamore and Romaine all night, or find the GWHFC a different location for the food line – as if residents with jobs and families and other commitments could possibly do such things. No matter how much the local residents tried to work with the GWHFC, they refused to cooperate in a meaningful way. Instead they regularly resorted to personal attacks on community advocates and threats to sue those who oppose them. The attitude of the GWHFC leaders appears to be that they have compassion for the homeless – but they have contempt for local residents and business owners.
And despite its claim to help the homeless, the GWHFC does not provide what the homeless need most – homes. On the contrary, they enable some chronically homeless individuals to stay on the streets and to keep on abusing substances or avoid getting treatment for mental illnesses. The food line should be moved indoors, into an existing homeless services organization that truly helps people get off the streets.
We recognize that those involved with the GWHFC have good intentions. But good intentions are not enough; good actions are needed as well. As the proverb goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The GWHFC has abused the neighborhood around Sycamore and Romaine for years – and this public nuisance must finally end.
The Editors of the Melrose Village Blog