A local principal at a middle school in Koreatown is frustrated with a homeless encampment bordering the school’s campus despite a city ban to keep them away.
In August, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, though school leaders say that enforcement has been sporadic at best.
At Virgil Middle School, principal Andrew Conroy said they have had to clear their field in the past because of encampment fires, wires have been cut to their outdoor lighting, and kids can’t pass on the sidewalks to and from school. He says he hears lots of complaints from parents.
“We definitely try to be empathetic with the situation, but it is an issue, continues to be an issue,” he told KTLA’s Lauren Lyster.
Conroy said he was encouraged when the city passed the blanket ban on encampments near schools over the summer.
“I was hopeful that we were going to get real support with, yeah, cleaning the area and having a safe space for our kids to get to school,” he said.
Despite reaching out and getting support from the district, city and school police, the encampments persist.
“Every so often, there will be a minor cleanup, but then it returns,” the principal said.
A person living in the encampment next to Virgil Middle School for the last two months said they’ve only seen outreach workers but have not been cited by police. A cleanup at a nearby encampment brought the person, identified only as Jaz, to this encampment.
“I think the best thing the school can do, or any public institution or employees can do, yeah, is keep pushing for housing,” said Jaz, who added that they’ve been homeless since getting evicted during the pandemic.
A spokesperson with the Los Angeles Unified School District released a statement to KTLA that reads in part:
“Los Angeles Unified has provided city officials the names of schools with nearby homeless encampments as local agencies strive to coordinate efforts and supports for the unhoused population. We recognize housing affordability remains a concern that impacts the entire Los Angeles community, and there is much more work that needs to be done.”
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell represents the area. His office told KTLA that services and outreach have been going on in this encampment and will continue at least until the end of his term, which is at the end of this week.
KTLA reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment but have not yet heard back.