HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — The City of Los Angeles is cracking down on an organization offering free meals to the hungry amidst resident complaints that the practice is creating a safety hazard.
Since 1990, hundreds have lined up in Hollywood for a meal from the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition’s food truck.
“It’s not just homeless, it’s hungry people,” said Trixie Sullivan. “People can’t pay their rent; they come to us to give them a meal.”
But the city is attempting to crack down on the daily meal distribution, prohibiting the group from staging tables on the sidewalk and most recently, trying to ban non-commercial food distribution in public rights-of-way.
“In the five years I’ve been here, I think I’ve seen maybe three people that have wanted to walk by us when we’re serving. Because for the most part we’re right next to a cement factory,” said Sullivan.
Nearby residents in the blocks around Sycamore Ave. and Romaine St. said they asked the city to do something because they say the health and safety impact has been overwhelming.
“They’re literally torturing us,” said neighboring resident Alex Polinsky. “They shoot intravenous drugs in my bushes, they leave blood and human waste and drugs in my bushes.”
Resident Phillip Farha, who said he worries for his young children, said the recession has made the situation worse.
“Almost every time they find syringes and they find other items, and trash, and it’s gotten worse,” said Farha.
Residents say there is no aftercare and no infrastructure to support those who come to receive the free meals.
“Downtown they have facilities for these people,” said Polinsky. “We have homeless people but we need to have infrastructure around helping them so we don’t have collateral damage.”
City Councilman Tom LaBonge is urging city departments to help find the group a new home.
“We haven’t had success convincing the food coalition to get inside and have it a little more formal, so it doesn’t have the impact on the community that it does,” said LaBonge. “Whether we work with some of our faith-based organizations, some of the local churches that are there that possible would really give a real hand, and not just a hand out.”
The City Council is set to take up the issue Wednesday.