LA’s homeless crisis is starting to squeeze homeowners’ wallets as they seek to find ways to protect themselves, and residents in Sherman Oaks are taking action against the issue.
“It’s become a real problem,” says Sherman Oaks resident Rick Marcelli, who claims to have spent thousands on improving his property in such a way as to make it more difficult for someone to break-in.
“From security gates to security screen doors to cameras to what have you,” he says. “That runs up a considerable amount of money for each home owner.”
Just up the street from Marcelli’s home on Coldwater Canyon Avenue is the LA River wash. A bridge on Chandler Boulevard has become a make-shift encampment with people living underneath.
LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian’s office says the city’s done numerous clean-ups around the properties including working with LAPD to get people to move off the grounds. In a statement, a spokesman says that during the summer of 2018, the area around the wash was cleaned up and this week is the first time they’ve witnessed people returning in several months.
“Pretty much, I feel like I’ve seen it all, although I’m sure I’ll see something new at some point,” says Alan, a resident who didn’t want to use his last name. “I’ve heard so many stories of people getting attacked because people are on drugs or not mentally there.”
It’s why Alan will join Marcelli for their community’s first Neighborhood Watch program in Sherman Oaks. An LAPD Senior Lead Officer is expected to attend as well.
“What we really need is more people to look out for each other and not be afraid to report,” says Robin Bragg-Marcelli, who has experience leading volunteer community groups. “It would be a nice if more neighborhoods would participate in a neighborhood watch.”
Krekorian’s office says it’s looking into the possibility of improving the quality of the fencing at the Wash, which is both a time consuming and a costly process, and would include working with the County. Krekorian is working for a more permanent solution to ending homeless encampments in this area and in other areas throughout Council District 2. His office says he’s working on a number of projects, including providing more services and bridge housing to the homeless so that they can live in homes and not public spaces, and will continue to work with residents in the area to ensure that their neighborhoods are clean and safe.
But Marcelli says he often feels that City Hall has a bigger heart for the homeless than for the city’s homeowners.
“I don’t understand how it seems, or it appears, that the homeless have more rights than we, taxpaying residents have,” he says. “The police have their hands tied. You talk about suspicious bags and all of a sudden you have SWAT down here. The fact is these guys have suspicious bags everywhere. But if you touch their bags, you’re touching their goods and by law they can’t do that.”
Marcelli says laws need to change before any attempt at fixing the homeless crisis will work.