SILVER LAKE, Calif. — Hidden beneath a U.S. 101 Freeway underpass, lies pieces of broken furniture, trash, and litter.

It has become a growing problem throughout the Echo Park and Silver Lake communities. 

What You Need To Know

  • Echo Park Trash Club meets three times a week for community cleanups

  • Through the clean ups, one woman has learned that limited access to trash removal is leading to buildup near unhoused encampments

  • A Los Angeles sanitation truck now helps the cleanup efforts haul away trash

As a resident, Erin Fein decided to be the change she wanted to see by hauling trash away, piece by piece.

“I just thought, you know, I love living here. I want to feel more connected to my community. What can I do? And it seemed like, this was something maybe I could do,” Fein said.

Her efforts began with small neighborhood cleanups that soon expanded with a growing group of volunteers. As the group began to tackle trash buildups throughout Los Angeles’ communities, she began to realize why it was building up in the first place.

“What I’m learning is, every time I work in encampment areas is that I’m speaking with the folks who live here and they need, they need trash service,” Fein said.

Through her conversations with unhoused individuals, she realized the encampments do not have adequate resources for trash disposal or removal. Illegal trash dumping near encampments are another issue.

Now, her organization — the Echo Park Trash Club — has managed to get the assistance of a city sanitation truck to help haul away trash from the cleanups. This allows the group to host about three community cleanups each month. 

Theodore Henderson has been unhoused for the last eight years and has created the We The Unhoused  to help share the challenges unhoused people face. He shared that those living outside do not have access to trash pickups or service, and that these cleanups are helping to reduce the need for city sweeps on nearby encampments.

“I’m encouraged because they are stepping forward and being part of the solution, instead of going on neighborhood council meetings vilifying unhoused people. They are trying to do it humanely, with respect,” Henderson said.

The cleanups are a temporary fix, but Fein hopes it will lead to more discussions on how to reduce trash buildup issues in the future. Currently, the Echo Park Trash Club is raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign to purchase a truck, cleanup supplies, and more.

“I have this incredible group of volunteers out here today at this location. However, there are areas like this all over Los Angeles and the greater Los Angeles area. We really need help,” Fein said.

Until more help can be found, Fein will continue to lead and inspire neighbors to take part in the cleanups — even if it means filling one trash bag at a time.