Photo by Daniel Lee via Unsplash

Fires stemming from homeless encampments have been the cause of concern for many Los Angeles residents recently, and some local officials say tiny homes may be the start of a solution.

In 2020, locals living across the street from the Penmar Golf Course in Venice said they spent months trying to get help and shelter for the homeless population to no avail until there were fires that threatened to spread to treetop canopies.

RELATED: Homeless Housing Conflicts Rise Among Arcadia Residents

During the second week of June, a local business, Glory Trading, caught fire from a homeless person camped outside his store. The fire destroyed more than $100,000 in merchandise. The owner of the downtown sporting goods store, Yohan Han, told CBSLA, “I can’t even explain my words, but I want everybody to see what’s happening in this city. This is the reality of what’s going on.”

The fires aren’t a new issue for Los Angeles, but it is rapidly worsening. From September 2018 to January 2020, 35% of the fires reported by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) were caused by homeless encampments.  Captain Erik Scott of the LAFD told Scriberr News that there have been 2,138 fires since May of this year alone and nearly 60% of them come from the homeless population. 

However, putting out the fires doesn’t solve the problem. The root of the issue lies in the increasing amount of homelessness. In 2020, the city of Los Angeles saw a 16% rise from 2019. And according to a report done by the non-profit organization, Economic Roundtable, “COVID-driven loss of jobs and employment income will cause the number of homeless workers to increase each year through 2023.”

Tom Waldman, Director of Communications for Councilman Paul Kekorian, told Scriberr News, “many of the fires started by people experiencing homelessness are the result of their using heating and cooking equipment under dangerous conditions outdoors.”

That’s one of the reasons why the goal for city officials like Waldman is get the population moved into one of the city’s tiny home villages, like Alexandria Park

The city is building the villages, and has partnered with the non-profit organization Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission to operate the tiny home communities whose mission is to “prevent, reduce and eliminate poverty, hunger and homelessness,” according to their website. There are three additional locations, Chandler Blvd., Tarzana and Reseda. 

“The LAFD has been actively involved with city partners to ensure all of the temporary homes are safe for the occupants,” Captain Scott said. 

Each tiny home facility has a 24-hour supervisor on the premises; there’s no cooking on the site (food is delivered in); minimal belongings are allowed to reduce the amount of fire fuel/combustibles, and each home features a door and an escape window. 

RELATED: Protesters Gathered at Echo Park Lake To Fight Against the City’s Plan To Repair the Park and Remove Homeless Encampments

The Economic Roundtable points to solutions like the Realization Project — a system-change initiative which believes that “employment is an important and under-utilized tool for providing income, dignity and housing for homeless individuals.”

However, Waldman remains “confident that the continued success of the tiny homes community will significantly reduce the chances of fires breaking out in the immediate area.”

Written ByPaige Olexa

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