Residents of Sportsmen’s Lodge face eviction — they’ve responded with a statement and list of demands.
Update: July 15, 2021, 5:00 P.M.
LA Family Housing has issued a third letter to unhoused residents of Sportsmen’s Lodge clarifying that the closure date remains Saturday, July 24, and if they decline to be placed in a shelter, they will stay through Saturday July 24 with a check out time of 11:00 AM.
After receiving the letter, the unhoused residents of Sportsmen’s Lodge say the content of the letter and their demands have not changed.
On July 10, 2021, LA Family Housing sent letters to the residents of Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City. The unhoused residents there, initially invited to stay through Project Roomkey (PRK), were told they have 14 days left before the closure of Sportsmen’s Lodge as a PRK site and they must vacate. At the end of the letter, in big bold letters, it reads “14 Days Left.”
Three days later, on July 13, 2021, LA Family Housing sent a follow-up letter to some of the residents, informing them that they are part of “Group A of the Demobilization Process,” and must now vacate by July 16.
Due to the contradictory dates and lack of permanent housing solutions, and the attempt to accommodate developers instead of prioritizing the city’s most vulnerable citizens in the midst of a pandemic, the unhoused residents of Sportsmen’s Lodge have written a letter and a list of demands, which you can read below.
We, the unhoused residents of the Sportsmen’s Lodge, are writing this statement to demand PERMANENT HOUSING in the face of a mass eviction by the City of Los Angeles this Friday. LA Family Housing notified us on Tuesday 7/13, that they will be closing down the Project Room Key site much sooner than we were originally told (original closure date was scheduled on Wednesday, 7/28). We were informed that we would have to accept offers of shelter in unspecified locations, or vacate the premises and return to the streets by end of day Friday 7/16 (tomorrow). Out of fear, some of us signed these documents because we were given no choice.
This mass eviction comes as “The Shops at Sportmen’s Lodge,” a $100 million luxury retail development, prepares to open to the public. We were informed that our eviction date is being pushed up so “regular guests” can begin staying at the hotel. Pushing the unhoused residents of this hotel to accommodate the owners, Midwood, is not just an inconvenience. This decision to prioritize profits is risking our lives. Prioritizing Midwood jeopardizes our future housing placements as overburdened housing navigators rush to find us appropriate housing. Forcing us out guarantees that many of us will be forced back to the streets. We are demanding that the city meet our need for permanent housing, rather than accommodate Midwood’s rush to open a luxury shopping experience. Midwood was paid to temporarily shelter unhoused people during the pandemic. Revenue they would have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic was made by our being there. Midwood can afford to wait until our need for permanent housing is met. We believe our lives are more important than an Erewhon grocery store.
We demand protection under the COVID crisis and see no difference between those of us who have been unable to pay our rent and those of us who are unhoused. If the city does nothing, we will be the first wave of mass evictions here in Los Angeles, with many more families at risk of losing their homes once the eviction moratorium is lifted. Why are we not considered under these protections? Why are we faced with constant instability and notes on our door telling us to leave when we have nowhere else to go? We stand with all people facing housing insecurity here in Los Angeles.
Changing the move-out date at the last minute and abandoning plans for permanent housing placements are bad-faith actions that clearly demonstrate the brokenness of the homeless services system in Los Angeles. Many of us were able to enter the Project Room Key program because we fell into the category of being the “most vulnerable” individuals on the street who were at risk of serious life-threatening complications if we contracted COVID-19. Forcing us to leave the safety of our individual rooms to move into a congregate shelter or return to the streets endangers our lives. The pandemic is far from over, and this eviction is coming as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles are on the rise.
It is troubling that the city does not have the housing resources to accommodate even the “most vulnerable” tier of unhoused individuals. If we cannot trust the system to provide services and housing for those they consider the “most vulnerable,” how can we reasonably trust these entities to solve homelessness in Los Angeles as a whole? At its height, the PRK program only housed 4,000 of the nearly 70,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in LA. We urge our city and county officials to follow through on their commitment to house those 4,000 individuals, and expand programs like PRK and PHK that move people indoors into housing.
We are tired and heartbroken from the false promises from the city to house us, but we aren’t giving up.
When we entered the PRK site at Sportsmen’s Lodge, we were told by case managers and service providers that we would NEVER have to return to the streets. Many of us were forced to give up many of our belongings, and all of our gear for outdoor survival, in order to be able to enter the program. We did so because finding refuge in our own motel room was worth it to us. Now, the promise of permanent housing that was given to us at the beginning of the program is being rescinded, and we are being forced to return to the streets with far less than we had prior to entering the program. If action is not taken to prevent us from having to return to the streets, this mass eviction will be a stain on the history of the city of Los Angeles.
We strongly condemn the notion that we are service, or housing, resistant. To be clear, we do NOT consider congregate shelter to be a safe, acceptable form of housing. During the time we have spent in shelters, we experienced harassment, theft, physical violence, sexual abuse, assault, and increased anxiety and depression, and we have no desire to return to those conditions. We are all doing our due diligence in working towards permanent housing; we have begun filling out our applications for EHV vouchers, and wish to continue working with our case managers and housing navigators to secure housing. We are fulfilling our responsibilities in this equation, and we believe it is time for the city to fulfill their obligations to us.
As a collective of residents remaining at Sportsmen’s Lodge, the following are our demands:
I. We demand to be allowed to shelter-in-place in our own rooms for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency or until permanent housing is obtained.
II. If permanent housing is not immediately available, we demand that all individuals evicted from the Sportsmen’s Lodge be given motel vouchers by the city (LAFH or LAHSA) for hotels in the area (SPA 2) until permanent housing has been obtained and accepted by all
III. We demand LA Family Housing, LAHSA, and the City of Los Angeles to allow the residents to stay at the Sportsmen’s Lodge until they receive an alternate hotel placement, or obtain PERMANENT HOUSING.
IV. We demand that the city and county of Los Angeles expand Project Room Key and Home Key so more unhoused people can safely shelter-in-place and obtain permanent supportive housing. There is no shortage of hotel rooms in our city, which means there is no shortage of housing.
V. We demand that all PRK and PHK sites agree to the demands set forth by the Unhoused Tenants Against Carceral Housing (U.T.A.C.H) on May 19, 2021.
Disclosure: Ashley Bennett worked with the unhoused residents of this PRK site to write this letter. She is a founding member of Ground Game LA, which is affiliated with Knock LA.
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