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Section Of MacArthur Park To Close To Begin Repairs, Maintenance Work

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A portion of the Westlake neighborhood's MacArthur Park, which has been home to a large homeless encampment, will close for several weeks beginning Friday for maintenance and cleaning.

MacArthur Park is an important source of revenue for MS-1`3, whose members "tax," or extort, drug dealers, gamblers, sex workers and others for permission to operate within the park
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 11: Police patrol MacArthur Park a location that has become an important source of revenue for the MS-13 gang, whose members "tax," or extort, drug dealers, gamblers, sex workers and others for permission to operate within the park on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said Wednesday that the south side of the park bordered by Alvarado and Park View streets, and Wilshire Boulevard and 7th Streets, will be closed so that L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks can conduct cleaning and make infrastructure improvements.

The closure is expected to last 10 weeks. The northern section of the park will remain open.

Kevin Dunigan lives near MacArthur Park. He told CBS2 and KCAL9 Political Reporter Tom Wait he is glad to see the unhoused find shelter - but hopes they are also getting support.

"I see what LA is trying to do with the city and they're trying to clean it up," Dunigan said.  "I just hope LA is doing something for them - not just get out of here, don't come back."

According to Cedillo's office, since January, 197 people and families living in MacArthur Park have already been moved "indoors to a safer environment" with the help of the L.A. Homeless Services Authority and nonprofit group People Assisting The Homeless.

Large Section Of MacArthur Park To Close Beginning Friday To Clear Out Homeless Camps
A sign announcing the closure of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, Calif., for cleaning and maintenance. Oct. 15, 2021. (CBSLA)

By Friday night, there was no more than three homeless people still residing in the park.

Jesus Torres, who works with People Assisting The Homeless, says outreach teams have been working at MacArthur Park since January.

"We've been able to move a lot of people into interim housing," Torres said. "The work starts with the first engagement and continues once we move them into a temporary place or a project room key site."

The city is looking to avoid another incident like the one in Echo Park.

Back in March, more than 180 people were arrested when demonstrators clashed with police over the course of several days while protesting the closure of Echo Park to remove a large-scale homeless encampment there as well.

The homeless crisis has continued to grow in L.A., with officials struggling to address the issue. Several tiny home villages have been constructed across the city in an effort to provide the homeless with temporary housing and a pathway to more permanent solutions.

Gustavo Otzoy said he was placed in Project Room Key, the program where hotels and motels are leased out temporarily. And that's how people in MacArthur Park are being housed. Oztoy said it doesn't always work because of restrictions like curfews.

"I was at a Project Room Key. Had to be there at a certain time. We couldn't leave at a certain time," Oztoy said.

Project Room Key does offer a number of services, like drug rehab and mental health services.

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