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How A Homeless Shelter Proposal First Divided -- And Then Brought Together -- LA’s Koreatown

A homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street in Los Angeles.
A homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street in Los Angeles.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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James An never pictured he’d be doing this: kneeling on a wet sidewalk to help a shivering homeless man after a cold night of hard rain in Koreatown. 

Now he was pulling soggy socks off the 52-year-old man’s puffy, waterlogged feet. He grabbed him a new pair from his car. 

“You can’t be sleeping under this tarp anymore, man,” An told Shawn Pleasants. “You’re going to die, dude. Seriously.” 

An’s concern about his homeless neighbors didn’t build over a lifetime. 

He’s part of an unprecedented wave of people in Koreatown who have started responding to the crisis just in the last year. 

Some come to encampments bearing food and supplies. 

Others push for reforms of homeless policies at City Hall. Still others are running for office — everything from the neighborhood council to county leadership — and stumping for homeless fixes. 

It can all be traced back to a single point in time last year, when L.A. leaders declared they would build a shelter in a bustling section of Koreatown and unleashed a citywide controversy.

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Josie Huang, Asian American communities correspondent for KPCC.