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Some residents say this Koreatown spot isn’t right for a homeless shelter, but is there a good place in Los Angeles?

Homeless people mill around on a Skid Row sidewalk in Los Angeles, California.
Homeless people mill around on a Skid Row sidewalk in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Nearly a month ago, Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a shelter crisis in Los Angeles, and said the city will ease restrictions on the building of new homeless shelters and launch a $20 million effort to create housing around the city.

Now, plans to create a temporary shelter in Koreatown have sparked backlash and protest from locals, who say they were not informed of the plan and want to have input on the shelter’s location.

Civil rights advocates have long argued that the city can’t clean up homeless encampments if they don’t have alternate shelter to offer. So legally speaking, what would the creation of shelters around Los Angeles mean for homeless encampments?

This new shelter would be situated in the heart of Koreatown, in a city lot that sits near Wilshire and Vermont, amidst businesses and schools. Residents fear it might drive away business and create safety issues.

But where can shelters in Los Angeles be placed where they wouldn’t encounter similar backlash? Is this a case of NIMBY-ism, or are some locations better than others? Garcetti has called for every council district to create temporary housing. The City Council is currently evaluating other potential properties for temporary housing in South L.A., West L.A. and Hollywood.

How will this process be undertaken, the locations chosen and the NIMBYs negotiated with? What kind of facilities would be needed for a successful shelter? And what would compel people who are homeless to live in shelters, which may be cramped, unsafe and unsanitary, rather than making it on their own?


Joon Bang, executive director of the Korean American Coalition Los Angeles, a nonprofit focused on promoting the civic and civil rights interests of the Korean American community; he wrote an op-ed published in the LA Times last week on the topic

Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, the oldest Mission in Los Angeles serving the homeless  population, located in Downtown