Los Angeles City Council Considers Developing Facilities for Homeless to Store Belongings

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
September 5, 2021 Updated: September 8, 2021

Homeless people in Los Angeles may soon be able to store their possessions in small-scale shipping storage facilities on city-owned properties such as parking lots and vacant parcels.

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Aug. 31 to pursue a motion that directs city officials to look into options for funding the program, and for five different storage facility locations across the city, and to report back to the council in 60 days.

The motion, initially filed by Councilwoman Nithya Raman and seconded by Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, said the inability to move or store large possessions or a large quantity of possessions may make it difficult for homeless people to leave their encampments for shelter, especially when most shelters limit the number of belongings to two suitcases.

The motion stated that “the inability to secure or transport a large quantity of possessions can make it far more difficult to leave a tent or encampment — creating obstacles to seeking work, making appointments to see case managers or moving elsewhere even if a location has become hazardous.”

The city council previously worked with the nonprofit organization Chrysalis to create temporary storage spaces. One location opened in Downtown Los Angeles in 2015, and two more opened in Skid Row and Echo Park in 2020.

The storage facilities, called The Bin, are warehouses with between 1,000 and 1,500 bins each. The bins are 60-gallon sanitized plastic garbage bins. Once registered, people are assigned a bin and a bin card, and can store any items they wish, except for illegal material, illegal substances, and weapons. People can store or retrieve items from their assigned bins anytime between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

During the Aug. 31 meeting, the city also approved a similar item introduced by Councilman Bob Blumenfeld to develop a pilot storage program in District 3 to potentially use a commercial locker to store belongings.

Blumenfeld said that when he introduced the motion five months ago, he was trying to solve the specific problem of one person, who was staying in a shelter and had several expensive tools but kept returning to the streets because he didn’t have enough room to store them in the shelter.

“There is an importance to a person’s belongings—what they need to survive, or treasured memories,” Blumenfeld said during the meeting. “Sometimes a person’s possessions, knowing they can get it stored, is the key to someone accepting shelter or housing when they might be on the fence about it. If they know their stuff can be secured, then they can take that step and leap into housing.”

Chrysalis and Councilmembers Raman and Harris-Dawson didn’t respond to a request for comment by press deadline. The Bin Downtown LA declined to comment.