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L.A. eyes ‘homeless dumping’ by hospitals, cops

Los Angeles authorities are examining video of an elderly woman wandering Skid Row in a hospital gown as they investigate the practice of hospitals and police agencies dumping homeless people downtown.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Authorities are examining a surveillance tape that shows an elderly woman wandering Skid Row in a hospital gown and slippers as they investigate the practice of hospitals and police agencies dumping homeless people downtown.

Carol Ann Reyes, 63, of Gardena, was taken from a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower on Monday to the downtown area known as Skid Row, authorities said.

A surveillance camera outside the Union Rescue Mission showed Reyes walking from the direction of a taxi that had just driven away. She wandered the street for about three minutes before a mission staff member brought her inside.

City officials have been looking into the alleged dumping of homeless people in Skid Row, a ramshackle area downtown.

Several hospitals have acknowledged that they put some discharged indigent patients with nowhere else to go into taxicabs headed to the area because it offers a chance for getting services and shelter. Los Angeles police also are investigating whether other law enforcement agencies dump people without anywhere else to go downtown.

“We have been looking into homeless dumping for some time, and this (tape) gives us another example of what has been going on,” said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.

Hospital acknowledges mistake
Diana Bonta, vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Southern California, said the hospital attempted to find a shelter for Reyes, but when that failed, it was determined that she would be taken to the Union Rescue Mission. Hospital officials are trying to find out why Reyes, who was in the hospital after suffering a bad fall, was left on the street still wearing her hospital gown and slippers.

The incident violated hospital policy and will not occur again, she said.

“We have a policy of treating our patients with compassion and care,” Bonta said. “This should not have happened.”

Andy Bales, president the Union Rescue Mission, where Reyes remained, said the incident was the third in the past week in which security cameras caught taxis dropping people in the area. The problem will continue until a coordinated discharge plan between hospitals and shelters is created, he said.

“We just can’t drop people off like baggage,” he said. “We can’t have a society where these people have nowhere to turn when they need care.”

Legislative action
State Sen. Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles, a Democrat, has introduced a bill that would prohibit any arresting agency from taking people who need drug treatment, mental health services or shelter outside their jurisdiction.

Los Angeles County officials are also considering establishing five regional homeless centers in an attempt to reduce dumping, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The regional homeless centers plan would spread the responsibility of caring for the homeless to suburbs instead of concentrating it downtown, the newspaper said. Each 30-bed center would operate 24-hours a day and would accept people from hospitals, police and care providers. The goal would be to find the resident permanent housing and services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, officials said.