Some L.A. homeless camps cleared as world leaders arrived for Summit of the Americas

As their Uber ride made its way from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles late Thursday morning, Bella Reith and Paul Campo couldn’t help but notice the row of tents on sidewalks and freeway underpasses.

But once they got to South Park — a downtown neighborhood dotted with luxury hotels, LA Live and restaurants — Reith, 29, said she noticed the homeless had gone.

That’s because the Ninth Summit of the Americas was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, about a block from Reith and Campo.

As hosts of the high-profile conference — among the nations of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean — city and federal officials established a security perimeter in South Park, primarily in and around the convention center, LA Live and the hotels where the heads of state are staying stayed and diplomats from America stayed. This led to the removal of homeless camps in nearby highway underpasses.

“In preparation for the summit, the city worked closely with federal agencies to identify areas that would be affected by increased security measures and road closures,” said Harrison Wollman, spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Outreach teams have worked tirelessly to ensure that every person within the federal security perimeter is provided with services and housing options – and as a result has provided shelter for 30 people affected by homelessness.”

Commander Billy Brockway Jr., the LAPD’s homelessness coordinator, said the LAPD “played a role” in cleaning up camps near peaks prior to this week’s events, but it was only a supporting role.

Brockway said there have been several municipal clean-ups in the area, led by the mayor’s office and council leaders. He said Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol also oversaw their own clean-ups of camps in areas under their jurisdiction prior to the summit, adding that he was not aware of any LAPD officials involved in the clean-ups related to the summit issued subpoenas or made arrests.

He said LAPD Chief Michel Moore has made it clear that such operations should be “duty-led” and that police are only there to help ensure security.

Kareem Hendricks, 67, was one of dozens of homeless people who were moved from the freeway underpasses ahead of the summit.

Kareem Hendricks, 67, was one of dozens of homeless people who were moved from the freeway underpasses ahead of the summit.

(Ruben Vives/Los Angeles Times)

Kareem Hendricks was waiting for a bus near Olympic Boulevard and Georgia Street and said he lived in a nearby 110 freeway underpass until he and others were told to leave about two or three weeks ago. He said cleaning teams, LAPD officers and members of other agencies showed up. He said the people had been offered housing and shelter, but he had not accepted their offer.

Hendricks said he asked the cleaners why they were removing people and was told by one worker it was because of the summit.

“He told me the city doesn’t want us going around asking for money or anything,” Hendricks said while looking at two Secret Service agents who were standing in front of the W Hotel across the street. “I went over earlier [to L.A. Live] asking for water sometimes but security is tight now.”

Hendricks said he lost some clothes and shoes after the city cleared the camp.

Khari Camp-Posey, 28, bought lunch from a nearby taco truck and said he noticed there were fewer homeless people in the area. He said he usually sees people on the sidewalk near the food truck, on Georgia Street and in camps under the 110 Freeway.

“I don’t know where they all went,” he said as he looked around and noticed lots of police and less traffic. “You can tell they’re just trying to make it seem like they’re in control.

“It’s like running a bad restaurant and hiding everything so the inspectors don’t see anything when they come in, but when they go it all comes out.”

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation said several roads in and around the convention center have been closed. CalTrans has closed several freeway on-ramps and exits from the 10 Freeway to 4th Street.

The Los Angeles Police Department said the estimated cost of policing the event could reach as much as $15.7 million due to overtime and other security costs. The mayor’s office had previously said it would seek state and federal reimbursement.

Dave Sotero, communications director for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the agency has asked LAPD and LA County sheriff deputies to increase the presence of K9s at key train stations.

Andre Williams, 54, pushed a shopping cart filled with recyclables and a bicycle onto 12th and Hope streets and said he still has permission to walk around the area without being harassed by police. Williams said he was left homeless last year after the building he lived in was closed by the city for violating the law. He said he spent his life savings in hotels while trying to find a new place to live and then ended up on the streets. He said he was on a waiting list for permanent placement.

Across the street, Aladdin Coffee owner Cyndi Corletto, 42, said she still gets visits from homeless people asking for water and coffee, and often gives them what they ask as long as they stay out and get away from customers keep away.

“I get about four or five a day,” she said.

Despite the increase and the challenges of running a business, nothing is more damaging than closed roads and reduced foot traffic.

“I’m losing more business with that than with the homeless,” she said.

On LA Live, Jimmy Flournoy, 65, sat on a bench near a Mediterranean restaurant enjoying the sun. The homeless man said he was just passing through and wanted to rest. Almost half an hour had passed and no one had come to force him to leave.

“Nobody told me to go, things were fine,” he said. “I try to move and get out of the way.”

Times editors Dakota Smith and Kevin Rector contributed to this report. Some L.A. homeless camps cleared as world leaders arrived for Summit of the Americas

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