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Fighting Homelessness by Closing a Commuter Rail Station

The high desert city of Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County has an innovative plan to reduce its homeless population: Close its Metrolink station, the last stop on the Antelope Valley line, that serves 400 commuters daily.
October 28, 2014, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The California Report's Los Angeles bureau chief, Steven Cuevas has been reporting on the ongoing story of Lancaster's plans to close their commuter rail station. "City leaders state that the (Antelope Valley Line) is a conduit for scores of homeless people from LA seeking public services, though they are unable to provide concrete evidence," states Cuevas in this radio report.

Earlier, Cuevas reported that "Antelope Valley, home to the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, is also home to roughly 16 percent of L.A. County’s homeless. Yet it receives just 2 percent of overall funding for homeless services."

"Mayor R. Rex Parris blames Metrolink for its lax ticketing system" that allows homeless passengers to ride for free, states Cuevas, a claim that the rail agency denies. In fact, as we noted here last year, riders without tickets could not even access the Union Station waiting room according to a pilot program.

A Metrolink spokesman indicates that they will not support closure of the station, but Parris maintains that because the city owns the station, it's not up to them.

"The day I tell the city staff to close it, they'll close it," asserts Parris. "That day is approaching."

The outspoken mayor has also targeted Section 8 housing as a 2011 New York Times article, summarized here, described. 

Mayor R. Rex Parris has contended for years that the area has been treated as a “dumping ground” for the poor of Los Angeles County. He has repeatedly said that Lancaster should be “waging a war” against the Section 8 program, which provides housing vouchers to low-income families, because there are disproportionately more recipients living in the area than in the rest of the county. It is a “problem that is crushing our community,” he said.

In sharp contrast to its social policies, Lancaster has made a name for itself in its forward-looking residential solar energy policy and won a 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the EPA for a street redesign project (posted here and here).

Correspondent's note: When submitted, the audio was not available to this story. If not accessible when posted, it can be heard here 40 seconds into the audio for Monday's program.

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Published on Monday, October 27, 2014 in The California Report
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