Local business owners and employees are frustrated with the growing number of RVs housing homeless people and cluttering streets in Gardena.
A meeting between local law enforcement, business owners and elected officials took place on Thursday to discuss health and safety worries and potential solutions to the crisis that is starting to affect the daily lives of people in the neighborhood.
“They pull up in vans, RVs, trucks, whatever it is, and pull out their hoses and just dump all their waste,” said Ivan Montes, who works in the area. “It’s horrible…sometimes you can’t even work [because] the smell is so bad.”
Workers in the impacted areas say that the residents of the RVs are not the friendliest neighbors.
“It’s very hard to load trucks, and there’s theft going on,” said John Norby, who works close to the RVs cluttering city streets. “They steal batteries – whatever they can steal, they will steal.”
Others are more sympathetic, but still are urging for action to be taken.
“I don’t complain about it, because everyone’s struggle is different,” said Depreesha Coulter, an employee of a nearby business. “But we need to clean it up.”
Officials are aware of the issue but are struggling to tackle the massive problem, which underscores the affordable housing crisis affecting thousands of people across L.A.
“We have 450 RVs that line our streets right now and all we are doing is pushing these poor folks around, and there’s no plan,” said David Mathews with the Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce. “We clean up, and then they return and then everyone’s angry.”
At Thursday’s meeting, officials met with residents and business owners to come up with a solution on how to clean up the streets and provide housing for those who are living in vehicles.
“The homelessness crisis reaches every part of L.A. County and our unincorporated communities have been the most impacted,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said in a statement. “This is one of the reasons why the Board of Supervisors approved my motion to create a countywide strategy focused on addressing vehicular homelessness, which is a key part of L.A. County’s Pathway Home initiative.”
Residents of the RVs – including hundreds of children – say that the lack of affordable housing left them with no other choice.
“In 2019, I lost my job and my house…the rent was just growing every single month and then I [couldn’t] pay,” said Jennifer Munoz, who lives in a recreational vehicle with her three children. “I’m a single mom with three kids and I lost everything, but I didn’t lose my faith in Jesus Christ.”
“It feels like a normal house…I’m fine where I’m at,” said Munoz’s 11-year-old son, as his mother began to tear up in front of him. “It’s kind of just the same.”
Overall, the residents are remaining positive despite the trying times, and are also hoping that officials can find a way to get them off the streets.
“It’s not about where you live,” Munoz said. “It’s about how you live.”