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Anti-camping laws disperse homeless population from public spaces

A new version of ordinance 41.18 will be enforced at specified locations throughout the city.

By Isaac Dektor, News Editor

Mark Riggers is seen walking to his belongings in the 405 freeway underpass, only a few miles away from Los Angeles City College. Sep 9, 2021 (Luis Flores/The Valley Star)

Mayor Eric Garcetti has recently signed changes to a local law restricting where people can live and store private property within the city.

The sweeping amendments to ordinance 41.18, which was passed by LA City Council in a 13-2 vote, gives officials the legal right to disperse homeless populations and confiscate private property from public spaces. stipulates that no person obstructs public right-of-ways, restricts public sleeping, lying, sitting and storing private property. Councilmembers Nirthya Raman and Mike Bonin both voted against the law which stipulates that no person obstructs public right-of-ways, restricts public sleeping, lying, sitting and storing private property. Idling and storing are restricted to five feet away from building entrances and exits, 10 feet away from driveways and two feet away from fire hydrants.

Garcetti issued a statement the week following the amended law’s outset in which he ensured his constituents that enforcement would occur hand-in-glove with education and outreach.

"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,” Garcetti said. “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.”

The changes come months after the city approved new funding for proposition HHH, committing over $1 billion to be spent on affordable housing over the course of this decade. Since the outset of the allocated money, however, the homelessness crisis has gotten visibly worse.

While the latest anti-camping laws will make public spaces more usable for Angelenos by dispersing the homeless, some believe it to be a palliative approach that does not address the systemic nature of the crisis.

Eugene Scott, a professor of anthropology at Valley College and advisor to the Anthropological Society, views the crisis holistically.

“Our capitalist model addresses those parts separately rather than how each interacts to contribute to the entirety of the problem,” Scott said. “If we look at the whole system, we may be able to prevent people from being homeless in the first place.”

Scott lambasted the new ordinance for addressing only the observable malady of homelessness.

“I think symbolically - hiding them from view - it gives the appearance that we’re doing something, and we’re treating the symptom without addressing the root cause,” Scott said.

Ken Craft, president and CEO of Hope of the Valley, a non-profit organization combating homelessness in the San Fernando Valley, is supportive of the anti-camping laws.

“In the real world, we’re dealing with neighbors and businesses whose rights must be respected,” Craft said. “There’s got to be a balance - that’s what the city is doing. I’m not for any type of enforcement without an alternative solution.”

The group operates five thrift stores throughout the San Fernando Valley - the proceeds of which circulate back into their mission to supply housing to the unsheltered. Thirteen shelters, and a job center among other resources are managed by Hope of the Valley according to their website.

The non-profit also shelters those in need through their Tiny Home Villages — six enclaves scattered throughout the valley — which consist of 64 square-foot homes with a host of amenities ranging from air conditioning to onsite meals and mental health assistance.

As of 2020, there were 63,706 total homeless individuals in Los Angeles county. Within service planning area 2 alone, which includes Valley College and stretches from Agoura Hills to Glendale and extends all the way up to Santa Clarita, Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority surveyed 9,108 total homeless individuals, 2,493 of whom are not residing in shelters.

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The implementation of anti-camping laws raises significant concerns about the treatment and welfare of homeless individuals. While public spaces are essential resources, these laws risk exacerbating the challenges faced by the homeless population. At The Law Office of Paul Mankin, we believe in advocating for the rights and dignity of all individuals, including those experiencing homelessness. Our commitment to achieving justice extends to ensuring fair treatment and equitable solutions for vulnerable populations. We remain dedicated to providing compassionate support and legal expertise to those in need, working towards positive outcomes that prioritize the well-being of our clients and the community as a whole.

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