Goldstein Investigates: Trailers Meant To Shelter Homeless Residents Sitting Unused In Parking Lots

The trailers, gifts from the state to help house the homeless in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, can be found locked up in a yard next to Dodger Stadium and in a lot at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Video Transcript

PAT HARVEY: And now to an exclusive David Goldstein investigation. With so many homeless people on the streets, we found millions of dollars worth of trailers that were supposed to house the homeless going unused. And David Goldstein is here with what he found out. David.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Pat, apparently, they haven't been used for some time. We found more than 100 camper trailers that were supposed to be provided to the homeless sitting unused, each costing taxpayers just under $40,000. We found them parked in at least three lots across the city, collecting dust. All this while thousands of people are living on the streets. With a backdrop of the city of LA, where more than 40,000 people are living on the streets, we found dozens and dozens of travel trailers, gifts from the state to house the homeless and get people off the streets in your neighborhood.

But these trailers aren't being used as a home for anyone. They're empty, parked side by side, like in a used car lot, locked up in this yard next to Dodger Stadium. And at the LA Zoo, we discovered another lot with close to 40 trailers. The sign says "vacant," the trailers unoccupied after millions of state taxpayer dollars were spent to help the homeless but now collecting dust.

DANIEL CONWAY: To just let these trailers sit there and go to waste is hard to comprehend.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Daniel Conway is with the LA Alliance for Human Rights. They successfully sued the city and county to try to end the homeless crisis. As a result, a federal judge has ruled housing must be provided to residents of Skid Row. What do you say to the city when you look at trailers that are just sitting there, not being used?

DANIEL CONWAY: It's absolutely heartbreaking, given the immediate need of so many-- of tens of thousands of people in la to see those free resources from the state just sitting there unused.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Governor Newsom donated the trailers last year to cities across the state. They cost California taxpayers $50 million to purchase 1,300 trailers from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 10 went to St. Joseph Center in South LA.

VA LECIA ADAMS-KELLUM: - It's interim housing. But it's absolutely home, yes.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: They used the trailers to transition people from the streets to more permanent housing.

VA LECIA ADAMS-KELLUM: It does really allow for privacy and a really nice way for families to get back on their feet.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Could you use more?

VA LECIA ADAMS-KELLUM: We could use more.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: But here they are. We did see the fire department towing a few trailers to use for mobile vaccination sites. And other city departments, we're told, are also using them. But that's it. We found the city of LA did spend more than 1.3 million taxpayer dollars to repair and install 316 trailers for the homeless last year. But that project was stopped at the end of the year.

- There's real hope on the horizon.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: In his State of the City address, Mayor Garcetti pledged a billion to combat the city's homeless crisis. But a spokesman with his office told me the trailers are just too costly to use because they have to be hooked up to water and sewage lines and constantly maintained. It's cheaper, they say, to put people up in hotels. But critics say solving the homeless crisis is worth every dollar.

DANIEL CONWAY: It's really hard to reconcile his announcement last week of $1 billion in spending and his efforts to basically do whatever it takes. And at the same time, he's had these trailers sitting there for months, going unused.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Now, the city is donating 125 of those trailers to the Volunteers of America, also donating to other organizations. The mayor's office says all of the trailers will be moved off those lots where we found them. But they won't be used by the city to house the homeless. Pat, back to you.

PAT HARVEY: That is a quandary, in a way, considering what's happening with our homeless population.

DAVID GOLDSTEIN: Exactly.

PAT HARVEY: All right, thanks so much, Goldie. And do you have a tip for David? Just call 818-655-2442 or email GoldsteinInvestigates@CBS.com.