LA City Council votes to ban makeshift dwellings near schools and day care facilities

A woman drags a rug down the middle of Alvarado Street in Los Angeles just steps from a homeless encampment along the underpass of the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Despite public outcry and opposition from homeless services providers, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to expand its existing anti-camping ordinance, known as Municipal Code 41.18, to prohibit makeshift dwellings within a 500 foot radius of schools and day care facilities.

The 11-3 vote in favor of the expanded ban came after many spoke against the amendment during public comment, many of whom said the law criminalizes poverty and homelessness. The council will vote a final time before sending the language to the mayor.

Council members Mike Bonin, Nithya Raman and Marqueece Harris-Dawson were the dissenting votes. Bonin and Raman argued that the ordinance would be ineffective in its purported goal of addressing homelessness, and would merely move people around.

“I also feel very, very strongly that as a body we need to be making effective policy here,” Raman said. “We have to stop lying to our constituents. We have to stop making promises that the city simply cannot deliver on. We cannot pretend to parents who are desperate for change in Los Angeles, that we can snap our fingers, pass a law and end homelessness in L.A. by making it illegal to be homeless in a lot of places in L.A.”

During public comment, Chris Venn, a longtime activist from San Pedro who has been monitoring encampment clearing operations there, spoke against LAMC 41.18, saying, “They need housing. Expansion of 41.18 means death.”

Venn described the people experiencing homelessness as having a “multigenerational” history of living in San Pedro. “Their parents, their grandparents lived in San Pedro,” working in the canneries, shipyards, fishing boats — which eventually closed down, Venn said.

Dan Dickerson, who is living in a Project Roomkey hotel in downtown L.A. that’s slated to close, said he’s seen medication and prized belongings of the homeless “thrown directly in the garbage, as are we thrown in the garbage” in city-led sweeps.

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“Well, I will not live in the garbage any longer,” Dickerson said. He told the council it lost his respect due to the sweeps: “I do not respect you because you have told me I do not deserve dignity or respect, that I’m not a person. I am indeed a person.”

Approval of the amendment comes as several hotels that were converted into shelters under a state and federally-funded program known as Project Roomkey are closing down or are already shuttered, leaving many participants scrambling to find alternative shelter or housing.

Dickerson, who is staying at a Project Roomkey hotel expected to close in a week, explained to a Los Angeles Daily News reporter that it had been difficult to get into the program.

For about a year, each time he saw a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority outreach worker, he said he would beg them to put him in the program. Now that it’s closing, he says, he will soon “go back to being a victim” of laws like 41.18.

He added that when he was living in an encampment, his anti-depressants were thrown away during sweeps. Dickerson says that he has struggled with drug …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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