The city of Los Angeles, California, on June 28 approved an ordinance that went into effect on Sept. 3 to combat the growing number of homeless tents that are appearing on public streets. However, the ordinance, for the time being, will not generate significant changes for Angelenos.
The City of Los Angeles’ anti-camping law 41.18 prohibits sitting, sleeping, lying down, storing personal belongings, or otherwise obstructing the public right-of-way in various city areas.
The new ordinance update will also prohibit camping within 150 meters of areas considered ‘sensitive’ such as schools, daycare centers, parks, and libraries.
Other sensitive areas include overpasses, underpasses, freeway ramps, tunnels, bridges, and subways.
However, despite the fact that the law that would allow the police to remove homeless tents from all of the designated locations has already gone into effect, Nury Martinez, the president of the Council, clarified that the LAPD will only be able to clear areas reserved for the disabled.
That is before the law goes into full effect, the Council must ensure that every homeless person has been informed of the new ordinance, and more importantly, has been offered shelter.
“We don’t need to choose between keeping our public spaces safe and clean, and connecting Angelenos experiencing homelessness with the services and housing they need,” said Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor along with Council President Nury Martinez.
“We can and will do both, as we respond to this crisis in a way that is compassionate and responsive to the urgent needs in our communities,” they added.
However, according to the LA Times, there is not enough housing space to serve the city’s entire homeless population, which exceeded 41,000 during the city’s last official count.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority claims that the city only has beds to shelter 39% of the homeless population.
Thus, it is unclear how the city will proceed with enforcement when the pre-existing condition is to give homeless people shelter before they can pitch their tents.
In addition, a Ninth Circuit federal court ruling prohibits authorities from seizing the property of the homeless because it violates the Fourth Amendment, the local search and seizure law, thus making it impossible to enforce the law.
The precondition for the ordinance to go into full effect was criticized by one of the council members, Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor in the upcoming election.
“Is a water down, bureaucratic, long process to connect people with Services and Housing… we’ve been connecting people, and engaging people in our streets for years,” Buscaino told CBS.
“What happens when they say no to help? Let the voters of Los Angeles decide, because they are tired of being sick and tired,” the councilman asserted.
On Aug. 26, Buscaino introduced an ordinance amendment to prohibit homeless people who have already been offered shelter from camping again. His motion was rejected by a large majority.
“If you’ve ever wondered why Los Angeles streets look much worse compared to other cities, it’s because we haven’t had common sense rules in place. I am disappointed that the Council did not support my amendment to disallow urban camping after a person has been offered housing,” Buscaino said, according to Los Angeles Daily News.
According to KTLA, in 2019, Los Angeles spent 619 million dollars to combat the homelessness crisis with little or no success.
The problem of homeless people camping on the streets and their consequent insecurity is one of the reasons why the current Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall vote on Sept. 14.