Coronavirus: LAX turns into safe haven for homeless during COVID-19 crisis

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — With fewer people passing through Los Angeles International Airport, it’s much easier to see those experiencing homelessness.

Some say the airport is one of the safer places to be at during the COVID-19 crisis.

Duane Lawson says he’s called LAX home for nearly a month. He adds that he feels more secure there and that safety is a priority.

The 35-year-old former Lyft driver says he suffered a series of setbacks, including losing his wallet, his ID and his job.

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He joins dozens of others who see LAX as a safe haven during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawson said measures have been put in place there to combat the spread of germs.

Those who help the homeless say the severity of COVID-19 is not always taken seriously.

“To them it’s just one more thing,” says Herb Smith, CEO of L.A. Mission.

Smith says he can see why some might gravitate toward LAX, especially if there are fewer people because there is less contact with others.

“I think the question is are they practicing social distancing, are they taking the proper hygiene methods,” says Smith.

According to LAX police, over the last three months they counted on average 121 homeless people at LAX. This month, that number went down to 94.

An airport police spokesman credits the police Crime Intervention Team working 24/7 to help people experiencing homelessness or mental illness to get assessed and to guide them to the proper services.

So far, Lawson says he has not encountered the intervention team, but he was warned about the airport closure hours. He says he left when he was asked to.

An airport police spokesman says people are warned about the nighttime closure hours. If they receive numerous warnings, they could receive citations. However, police say they want to help them get the proper services or care before they reach that point.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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