TORRANCE, Calif. — An empty parking lot tucked behind the Torrance Police Department will soon turn into a space for interim housing for the unhoused.
But its location, close to a popular soccer field and homes, has residents like Chris Rossi concerned.
What You Need To Know
- Torrance City Council has amended an anti-camping ordinance, while approving Pallet Shelters on city property and a homelessness plan to seek funding
- The Pallet Shelter site will feature about 40 units with 24/7 security, meals, case management and more
- The interim housing site could open in about three months, once the city secures funding
- One resident shared that the anti-camping ordinance could further criminalize the unhoused, while others fear the site is too close to homes and a popular soccer field
"With the children there, the library right here, it seems convenient to have the police department right there. But it doesn’t make sense to put it in a place that’s so surrounded by children," Rossi said in reference to the Civic Center campus.
Along with the approved site, the Torrance City Council amended the city’s anti-camping ordinance that will allow police to cite individuals sleeping or camping on public property. It also approved a homelessness plan to seek funding for the site.
According to the most recent data by LAHSA, there are more than 300 individuals experiencing homelessness in the city. Rossi shared that he fears the location of the site could bring a change to the surrounding area.
"Any number of crimes could possibly happen," he said. "Not saying that all the homeless people are bad, but the numbers of bad outweigh the numbers of good, and we see it day after day in Los Angeles, Venice Beach and everywhere. So it makes me feel uncomfortable."
Before the city council meeting, Arie Faqerzai, who is also a Torrance resident, came out in protest of the city’s anti-camping ordinance amendment with the Torrance for Justice group. Faqerzai shared that this type of enforcement in the city will only further criminalize the unhoused.
"I’ve seen TPD tow unhoused folks living in their vehicles," Faqerzai said. "I’ve seen citizens of Torrance bad mouth unhoused people, throw trash at them, yell at them. Call cops on them. Everything that you can think of that was terrible."
While residents are unsure of what the changes could bring, Mayor Patrick Furey sees this as a positive move for everyone in the city.
"We have a horrific problem with people experiencing homelessness," he said. "Everybody knows that. I hear the anecdotal stories absolutely every day. And people complain about homeless people, and homeless people are out there. If we can’t find them shelter, they are going to remain out there because we are precluded by law from moving them along. So this is our effort to do the quality of life issue."
Furey explained how the city is hoping to replicate the Redondo Beach Pallet Shelter site located near the South Bay Galleria. The $1.6 million, one-year pilot project will install about 40 units with 24/7 on-site security, fencing, case management, meals and more. The city is continuing its efforts to locate other sites. However, Furey noted that resources within the city are limited.
"We have availability for sewer service here, as well as water service and electric, which are all necessary for the Pallet homes," said Furey. "We would have to pay, expend a lot of money doing that [otherwise]. So, coming out of the worst recession ever, I think, because of the pandemic, we’re kind of limited in our funds. And we’re really relying on funding through the South Bay Council of Governments or the County of Los Angeles."
The site isn’t an ideal location for residents like Rossi.
"It needs to be something away from the community, per say, not right next door to a bunch of children or families or houses or developments. They need to be put some place that’s not here," he said.
Until then, Rossi, Faqerzai and other residents in the city will be keeping an eye on what this will mean for the community.