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LA city crews clear Little Tokyo homeless encampment

Homeless Search For New Housing As LA Closes Little Tokyo Encampment 02:10

Authorities late Thursday night and early Friday morning cleared out a large homeless encampment from downtown Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

The dozens of homeless people living in Little Tokyo's Toriumi Plaza had been given a 10 p.m. Thursday deadline to move out. A group of homeless activists picketed outside the plaza Thursday morning.

LA City Crews Clear Little Tokyo Homeless Encampment
March 18, 2022.  (CBSLA)

A fence was placed around the plaza and city cleanup crews overnight removed remaining items, trash and debris. Several of the homeless, however, brought their tents to just beyond the fences and set them up on the sidewalks outside.

As of Friday morning, an estimated 81 people who lived at Toriumi Plaza were relocated to temporary housing, according to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority. L.A. City Councilman Kevin de Leon said all of them were offered motel rooms.

"For some of them, we need the L.A. County Mental Health Department to really step up and do what's necessary to get these individuals, because, if you're running down the street half-naked, and you're screaming and yelling at the top of your lungs, you're not well, and you need help," De Leon said.

Some of the homeless told CBSLA that the options given to them by the city were too restrictive and they would move elsewhere.

Neighbors and business owner told CBSLA the encampment began to grow at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They say there has also been a stark increase in crime at the plaza.

"A lot of property damage over the last year-and-a-half, I'm glad to see it finally is going to be cleaned up," said Brian Keto with Little Tokyo Public Safety, who runs the oldest business in the area, a confectionary his grandparents started 120 years ago.

"Sometimes breaking windows, using drugs, fighting in the middle of the street," another business owner said.

According to De Leon, during the last two years there have been more than 130 police and fire calls to the plaza.

City crews will now work to fully clean the area before repairs are made and landscaping is done. There is no timeline for when the plaza will be reopened. This marks the latest large-scale homeless encampment to be cleaned up and fenced off by the city of L.A., joining Echo Park and MacArthur Park.  

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