Organizers Vow To Remain On Site Until Point Made
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Organizers of a tent city for 200 homeless people vowed to remain at the site across the street from City Hall beyond a new deadline if necessary ″so the concept of homelessness will sink in.″
The state extended until Saturday a permit for Tent City II, a temporary downtown haven where some of the homeless can find a place to sleep and eat. The permit originally was to have expired today.
″City Hall came to us,″ said Ted Hayes, leader of a group of homeless people who call themselves Justiceville.
The new deadline does not necessarily mean Tent City II will shut down then, Hayes said. ″We’ll stay here long enough so the concept of homelessness will sink in.″
The event should set an example for potential tent cities across the nation, he said.
A 5,000-square-foot, unheated circus tent at the site holds about 200 cots, while occupants of 10 smaller tents use sleeping bags or blankets.
Tent City’s occupants and hundreds of other indigent people are served two meals daily, mostly sandwiches or whatever was donated during the day.
An announcement that the permit was extended brought cheers of ″Justice, justice,″ from a crowd of the homeless that huddled together in front of TV cameras and microphones at a news conference on the site.
Lillie Smith, 60, used the opportunity to say she’s tired of being without a home for the past seven years.
″I’m here to tell America before I die that it’s beyond tents,″ she said. ″It’s beyond shelter. I want a place to put my body that is weary.″
The tent city dwellers had planned to march Monday to City Hall but canceled the demonstration after officials relayed messages that an extension was approved.
Cmdr. Robert Byrd of the state police southern region in Los Angeles said he granted the extension Monday.
Gene Marquart, chief of the state’s office of insurance and risk management for the Department of General Services in Sacramento, said the state police had the authority to extend the permit until liability insurance coverage expired. The insurance policy is good through Saturday.
Hayes said ground breaking was scheduled in 1988 for a new building on the site, and in the meantime ″I don’t see why we can’t stay here.″
The homeless could be housed temporarily in three stories of underground parking beneath the site, all that remained of the old State Building that once stood there.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that 30,000 homeless people live in the Los Angeles area, although the mayor’s office says that figure is probably too high.