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Dear Mitch, Don’t Evict Us

A letter from the residents at Echo Park Lake

We, the unhoused residents of Echo Park Lake, are coming to you as your constituents, and fellow human beings to express our fear, grief, and anger in regards to the severe harassment and persecution we have felt at the hands of law enforcement and city employees over the past three months. We have built a community at this lake that is now made up of more than 60 people, and we are facing the threat of eviction and being displaced from our community, the family we have built here every single day, and we are devastated.

We are appealing to you today because we are hoping that as our council member, you will stand by us and work WITH us to develop a solution. We need you to hear us, and we would like to share our stories with you. We care about this lake, we want to HELP keep it clean — the fact that we do not have homes does not mean that we are dirty, dangerous, drug users, or unemployed (many of us have lived and worked in CD13 for over a decade). We hope you understand what this lake means to us — this has become our home in what is one of the darkest times of most of our lives. Having camaraderie and connection to those who care about us (which is what we have here) is an integral part of our future success.

We did not end up unhoused by choice, nor do we desire to stay on the streets forever. At this point there is no viable option for shelter within, or near CD13 for all of us. Many of us have tried to enter the shelter system elsewhere, and do not feel safe or comfortable returning to those places. Many of us have section 8 vouchers, many of us are on 2–3 year long waiting lists for programs that would lead to permanent supportive housing. But what we need and what we desire is to create a solution within this city council district, our home.

Mr. O’Farrell, we understand your job is difficult. We understand that a small amount of housed residents in our area and some park goers have lodged complaints against us — largely because they do not know us personally, and do not understand our situation. We hope you can be our champion in pioneering a solution. We would like to present a motion that would allow us to remain in the park until we are able to find stable, permanent supportive housing. Before you answer, or take any action against us, please come and meet our community and discuss this matter with us first.

If we are allowed to stay at Echo Park Lake, we would like to establish a community contract with you, and our housed neighbors in regard to our residency in the park.

On our end, we pledge to:

  1. Keep the park clean. We would be happy to help the rangers in maintaining the beauty of this space, we will be drafting a proposed residential volunteer job summary (i.e. trash collection, gardening, sweeping, beautification projects, maintenance, bathroom cleaning etc.) that we would each agree to be a part of to ensure that our residency does not detract from the beauty of the park
  2. Be respectful to our neighbors and community
  3. We will be compliant with cleanups that are in line with the demands of the Services Not Sweeps coalition.

In return for being able to stay at Echo Park lake until we each have a housing plan in place, we ask that neighbors, law enforcement, park employees and park goers do the following:

  1. Not gawk at us and film us as if we were in a freak show
  2. Not pollute our living space or the environment of the park
  3. Not harass and criminalize us, but accept us as members of the community
  4. Not intimidate us with late night police raids
  5. No more frequent and unpredictable “clean ups”

As it stands, we are being told that if we do not vacate this park by this evening each of us will be cited. We do not wish to be unlawful, nor can we afford the fines that would be issued to us. We hope to come to a more holistic solution or agree to have longer discussion about this before that takes place. We hope to hear from you soon.

Yours truly, Your constituents of Echo Park Lake