The homeless paradox at El Camino College

Recent efforts made by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to clean out a homeless encampment in the portion of the Dominguez Channel that runs under El Camino College, Lot F, have been met with open arms by a frustrated community, and opposition from encampment residents.

Despite two cleanups in the month of October, homeless campers such as Jay Tran have repeatedly descended back into the shady canal that separates EC from Alondra Park.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” Tran said when asked about why he lives in the Dominguez Channel. “This is the last place we could go. The police keep throwing us out of everywhere. I have been down here two and a half years.”

Tran has been able to live in the channel drama-free, up until recently.

In August, some of the campers migrated from the canal and out onto Manhattan Beach Blvd.

That caught the attention of local residents who decided to take action.

The L.A. County Sheriffs Dept., was contacted and the cleanups were commenced.

“The first time they did a cleanup, they posted signs, so we were able to move a lot of our stuff,” Tran said. “The second time, no notice, no nothing, they just came and took everything.”

The cleanups have done little to stop the campers from returning, however, causing one local resident, Joyce Ortiz, to suggest a unique idea.

“We should just give them portable toilets and garbage cans,” Ortiz said. “They’re currently throwing their trash and other things into the channel.”

While the cleanliness issue was very prominent among local residents, the main issue seemed to be that of violence.

“It’s been a real problem, especially since last year, and especially at night. There are lots of arguments and fights every night.” resident Peyton Cross said. “We keep calling the police, and the homeless keep returning after being asked to leave.”

Even some of the campers would seem to agree with the residents assertions about the encampment.

“There’s nothing good down here, this place is going downhill fast,” camper Tim Warren said. “There’s nothing but fights, stabbings, and arguments.”

In the past year, El Camino reported 31 combined drug and weapon violations on campus.

Police Chief, Michael Trevis, told The Union in an article published on Oct. 22 those arrests are due in part to the encampment.

“Homeless people from the channel coming over here, our officers are stopping them and they’re finding drugs and/or knives; nobody had guns,” Trevis said.

While the residents may rightfully want to see a permanent disbandment of the camp, it seems unlikely due to the shortage of safe and clean spots for homeless in the area.

“I don’t want to be a nuisance to El Camino,” Tran said. “I used to be a student (at EC) for massage therapy and I would love to go back and study Art one day. Its just simply that I have nowhere else to go.”