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Concerns grow as homeless tents return to parks after sweeps

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Good morning! It’s Monday, December 18.  Welcome to Katchup Briefing, the Korea Daily’s weekly English newsletter, where I’ll keep you informed with the latest news updates and perspectives from the Korean-American community. If you want to explore more articles and columns from previous weeks, please visit koreadailyus.com.

Left: The entrance to Seoul International Park after the removal of homeless encampments. Right: Homeless encampments at the entrance to Seoul International Park prior to the sweep.

 

Homeless encampments have been removed from two parks in LA Koreatown after residents called for their clearance.

On December 13, a dozen homeless tents were swept away from RFK Inspiration Park, which borders Robert F. Kennedy Community School. On the morning of December 15, several homeless tents were also removed from Seoul International Park.

The removal was organized by the Los Angeles City Councilmember’s Office for District 10, which includes Koreatown.  The clearing works were carried out less than a month after more than 110 residents petitioned the councilmember’s office for homeless encampment sweeps.

In the November 27 Katchup Briefing column titled “Addressing Issues Caused by Homeless Encampments Near Residential Areas,” I called for the removal of homeless tents from parks near residential areas for the safety and hygiene of residents.

On December 12, three days before the homeless encampment sweep, an elderly Korean-American couple was assaulted by a homeless man in Seoul International Park, raising concerns among residents.

At around 8:30 p.m. on December 12, a Korean-American senior couple was walking in Seoul International Park when a homeless man approached and kicked the male senior without reason. Surprised, the victim blocked the kick with his hand, injuring his hand in the process.

When the victim refused to back down and took a confrontational stance, the homeless man seemed to turn away. However, shortly after, he picked up a stone and threw it at the couple’s backs.

“I felt uneasy because the man, who went back to his tent, seemed to be pulling out a weapon with a hissing sound,” the victim told the police.

According to nearby business owners, the assulter in this case was known to be a homeless man who had been living in a tent at the location.

The homeless encampments at the location had been the subject of many complaints from residents, with four to five homeless people living there causing serious safety and hygiene issues.

Fortunately, the homeless tents have been removed, and the Olympic Police Department has promised to increase the number of patrols to enhance safety. We hope that the residents of the neighborhood will now be able to live safely.

However, at least five homeless tents were set up again on the afternoon of December 14 in RFK Inspiration Park, where the tents were removed on December 12. Residents of nearby apartment complexes call for the park to be permanently closed, essentially preventing the homeless tents from being set up.

“We’re not happy about this,” said Michael Westbrook, a resident of the Gaylord Apartment near RFK Park. “The homeless are back, especially the ones with dogs. They’re barking around the clock and disturbing the residents.”

Residents and merchants near Seoul International Park are also concerned that, like RFK Park, homeless people will return and set up tents, creating safety and sanitation issues.

“Seoul International Park is used by many residents, so I don’t know why we have to go through such anxiety and inconvenience because of the homeless problem,” said Jungwoo Kim, a shop owner of K Pro Golf in the mall near Seoul International Park.

At its December meeting, the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council passed a motion to submit a Community Impact Statement to the LA City Council or send a formal letter to District 10 Councilmember’s Office regarding the public safety and public health issues at the two parks where residents have submitted petitions.

The motion is intended to urge the City Council to take action to address the issues caused by homeless encampments in residential neighborhoods.

By Mooyoung Lee   lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com