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City Leaders, Advocates At Odds Over Fixing Growing Problem Of The Homeless -- And What To Do With Their Stuff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA)  --  Everyone agrees that Los Angeles is dealing with a homeless crisis.

But that is largely where the agreement ends.

The situation is as bad as it's ever been but city leaders and advocates don't see eye-to-eye on how to fix the problem. Or the way to deal with the problem in a humane manner.

As CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Sara Donchey reports, there is another area where there is no common ground -- the city has a limit on the amount of belongings people can store on the sidewalk.

Belongings are supposed to be able to fit in a 60-gallon bin. But the city is removing that limit for Skid Row -- one neighborhood the city says is the epicenter of the growing problem.

"This is an urgent FEMA-like Red Cross-like disaster," says Andy Sales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission.

He says homelessness is at an all-time high in the area. And with so many people struggling on the streets comes stuff that is filling sidewalks.

"Now there's so much stuff you can't even navigate our streets," Bales says.

The city has agreed to no longer limit people here on how much they can store -- it's all part of a settlement reached from a 2016 lawsuit.

There are some exceptions for large furniture.

"The advocates -- as far as I know -- are saying we have got to have enough places for people to go before we start clearing out all of their stuff. Now the business leaders are saying we can't even do business with all of this stuff," says Bales.

Homeless advocates sued the city after they claimed the LAPD destroyed the personal property of an already vulnerable homeless population during sweeps of camps.

Meanwhile, business leaders and groups say the camps are bad for the city, bad for business and bad for the homeless themselves.

"No one's belongings, medical supplies,  should ever be taken at any point. However, we believe that there's got to be a balance between how much stuff can exist in the public right of way," says Jessica Lall, CEO of Central City Association.

But Bales think the city should focus on the larger -- and more pressing -- issue.

"We want to get all the people off the streets and if you get all the people off the streets and under a roof, then the stuff will naturally go away," he says.

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