City, LAPD Clear Homeless From Veterans Square

The square had become home to more than 30 homeless residents, according to the American Legion.

On Sunday morning, volunteers from local American Legion Post 206 and the conducted a brief cleanup effort at the Veterans Square Memorial at the corner of York Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

In recent months, the square had become a camp for the area's homeless, hosting up to 35 people on some days, according to Cmd. Sgt. Major Tony Howard from American Legion Post 206.

The square had also become a hot spot for drug deals, according to HHPNC member Janet Dodson, who said that volunteers witnessed one deal take place on Sunday morning.

On Friday evening, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of City Services, the homeless who had occupied the square were cleared from the area.

Howard said previous attempts to place one square resident, a Vietnam veteran named Gary Sheffield, into a homeless shelter had failed.

"We tried to get him into a program and he didn't want it," Howard said. "He thinks he has found a home."

Howard said he had also enlisted community volunteers to sit at the square throughout the coming days in order to prevent it from again becoming a homeless encampment.

Dodson said volunteers realized it would likely be impossible to find a long-term solution for the homeless occupation of the square, adding that many of those who had been removed would likely set up camps behind the in the Sycamore Grove section of Highland Park.

"These are people, there is no 'away,'" she said. "You can't just say 'take these people away.'"

However, she said volunteers were dedicated to keeping the square as clean and safe as possible.

Rebecca Prine--, a program dedicated to providing outreach services to Northeast L.A.'s homeless--said the attempt to clear the square would prove to be only a short term solution if housing wasn't secured for the residents.

"It's not going to solve the problem, that's for sure," Prine said. "For most of these people, homelessness is all they know. Until they're offered something better, they're not going to leave. They're just going to end up at some other park." 

Prine, along with Recycled Resources volunteers, visits each of Highland Park's homeless residents on a monthly basis, providing basic life amenities as well as information about homeless services in Los Angeles.

She admitted that, in many cases, the homeless she meets with, many of whom are stricken with severe mental illness or drug addition,  have no interest in going to emergency shelters.

"Many of them are not really sure what they want," Prine said.



Reies Flores January 12, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Very nicely written, Daniel. Thank you. The issue of homelessness in our community (and in other places) is very complicated and has no easy remedies. Rebecca's organization is part of the solution as is thinking about this issue with some sensitivity as Daniel is promoting. I think that Janet Dodson's blog on this issue is very thought provoking and is a good place to start a conversation about homelessness in the HLP. I don't think that Joe meant to be callous but his post and the juxtaposition of the realtor showing a beautiful home in garvanza overlooking the homeless encamptment was quite jarring. It really highlighted the inequities in our society very well.
David Bloom January 19, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Daniel, the only vet out of the more than 20 persons who prefer to camp at the Veternas Memorial Square is Gary Sheffield. In an earlier Patch article, it was already reported that the Highland Park American Legion's Judge Advocate General, Mr. Tony Howard, had set up Mr. Sheffield with a shelter opportunity at a Veterans Affairs-affiliated facility. However, Mr. Sheffield declined the offer. This is not a case of NIMBYism, it is a simple case of respect for sacred ground. Those names on the plaques at the Veterans Memorial Square mean something. They are filled with the names of the people from Franklin High School who gave their lives during WWII, the names of Northeast residents who served in Vietnam, and even more plaques are planned to honor Northeast veterans who served in later wars. When the homeless who are living there spread their clothes to dry and otherwise place their belongings on the memorial itself, covering the plaques, they are committing a serious, serious dishonor. Mr. Sheffield should know that, especialy after all the times I have told him about it. Yet every time I have stopped there to take these items off of the Memorial he has been content to just sit there and not say a word to dissuade anyone.
Joe Walker January 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Great to see David Bloom posting, a longtime local educator. I knew him at Garvanza School a few years back.
David Bloom January 20, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Hi Joe, I am not the Dave Bloom you remember. I am the Commander of the Highland Park American Legion, not the educator you know. I do remember David Bloom myself, however. He oversaw the Franklin Night School courses held in the library at Franklin High School when I was a student there...
Joseph Frail June 19, 2012 at 02:12 PM
I think the larger issue here is that this 388 to 400 acre parcel of land (veterans park) was donated to the veterans for their personal use. Regardless of what is taking place now, the fact is that being a prime piece of realestate the governments involved are keeping it from its dedicated purpose.


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