LA destroys homeless camps close to colleges

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban homeless people from setting up tents within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers, in a heated meeting where protesters shouted shouted at the council members and at one point, they paused the meeting.

The new restrictions, passed by a vote on March 11, significantly expand the number of restricted sleeping and camping sites. And they come into a heated debate about how the city should respond to the plantations that have taken over in many parts of the city.

Members of the audience repeatedly chanted “shut it down” as Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a longtime advocate of increased enforcement, tried to speak out in favor of the restrictions. Council President Nury Martinez then stopped the meeting for more than an hour so police could clear the room.

After the audience had left, the panel members reconvened, discussed the measure, and voted.

“I think this morning people intended to shut down this place and stop us from doing the job we were all elected to do,” Martinez said ahead of the vote. “And that, I think, is extremely unsettling.”

Under the new restrictions, people will be prohibited from sitting, sleeping, lying down or storing property within 500 feet of every public and private school, not just a few dozen schools selected by the council over the past year.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents South Los Angeles, voted against the restrictions, telling reporters they would move the city in a direction that was “inhumane beneath its citizens.” city.”

Councilman Mike Bonin, an opponent of the restrictions, said city leaders should devote their energies to improving programs that help homeless Angelenos, such as those that help homeless people. the person with the house purchase voucher gets an apartment.

“We needed to be relentlessly focused, especially on getting people into the home,” said Bonin, who represents coastal neighborhoods from Los Angeles International Airport north to the Pacific Palisades.

A second vote will be required next week. Bonin predicts these changes will result in a nearly 10-fold increase in the number of coercive locations, from more than 200 to about 2,000. The city’s supporting documents on the proposal do not give a clear figure out how many sites will be covered.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials told The Times that about 750 school sites are within city limits, a number that doesn’t include private or parish schools. Nearly 1,000 commercial daycare businesses are registered with the city’s Finance Office, though it’s unclear whether all of those locations will be covered by the city’s new law.

Tuesday’s vote comes more than two months after Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, made a surprise in-person appearance before board members. request new restrictions. Parents and school staff have also voiced support for the changes, saying they have observed erratic or even violent behavior near or on LA Unified properties.

Martha Alvarez, who oversees government relationships for the school district, told the board that LA Unified has found 120 facilities with prisons in the past year.

“These conditions are a danger to public health,” she said. “They are unsafe and cause trauma to students, families and staff when they enter the school grounds.”

Councilman Joe Buscaino was also supportive, saying he has been working to open more beds for homeless people across the city, using a variety of strategies.

“I have supported Bridge Home shelters. I have supported tiny homes, Project Roomkey, Project Homekey, permanent support homes,” Buscaino said. “But what I’m not advocating for are drug dens near our schools, our parks, or anywhere where children congregate.”

A woman accompanies two school-age youths through a homeless shelter in Hollywood

Sarah Tindall, middle age, walks with school children through a homeless encampment near Larchmont Charter School in August 2021.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The new school year begins on August 15.

Enemies of the proposal have repeatedly argued that the council’s restrictions would effectively outlaw, lead to the deaths of homeless Angelenos. They say banning fences around schools will only push people and their belongings a block or two away.

“There are so many people struggling right now, and we should help them,” said Andrew Graebner, appearing before the panel.

The new restrictions come as city officials are slowly shutting down one of the signature programs set up to help homeless Angelenos during the COVID-19 pandemic: Project Roomkey, which turned the homes of the homeless. multi-storey hotels into temporary shelters.

Those facilities allow the city to bring far more people indoors than before, at a time when centralized shelter systems, where many people sleep in one room, had to operate below capacity in all directions. lead away from society.

The Mayfair Hotel, which offers 252 rooms under the program, recently ended participation in the program. According to Brian Buchner, the city’s homeless coordinator, the downtown LA Grand Hotel and the Highland Gardens Hotel in Hollywood, which offer a total of 553 rooms, are expected to be shut down as a director. way is the Project Roomkey location at the end of the month.

Airtel Plaza Hotel, with 237 rooms, will end the program on September 30.

Buchner said there are “active discussions” at City Hall and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency about extending deadlines at one or more of those facilities.

Tuesday’s vote represents a shift in the city’s approach to anti-camping law enforcement, reducing the arbitrariness of council members and establishing a more sweeping policy. It’s a big contrast from last summer, when advocates of the law saw it as a narrow and targeted measure, with enforcement accompanied by service offers from outreach workers. community.

Over the past year, permanent metal signs with deadlines for homeless people to leave have been posted at more than 200 locations, 33 of which are schools or daycare centers. In some locations, tents and temporary shelters remained weeks or months ahead of enforcement deadlines, as outreach workers struggled to persuade residents to voluntarily move.

While some sites currently do not have tents and camps, others already have more people living on the sidewalks than when staff approached the initial assessment of these sites.

City and county officials along with homeless service providers have previously told The Times that insufficient outreach staff and lack of temporary housing options have hindered law enforcement.

Enemies of the council’s homeless strategy have repeatedly called for the removal of curbs camping restrictions. Several critics are currently front-runners in the November 8 election.

Accountant Kenneth Mejia, frontrunner in race to replace City Controller Ron Galperin, speak The new rules will make about one-fifth of the city’s sidewalks closed to the homeless. He warning that the restrictions would simply push the homeless to other neighborhoods.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who bypassed Mejia by nearly 20 points last month, voted in favor of the new law.

The council’s new anti-encroachment law quickly became an issue in other contests. Civil rights attorney Faisal Gill, is currently running to succeed City Atty. Mike Feuer, who had previously promised not to enforce the law, said it was unconstitutional and would be disqualified by Circuit 9.

Gill’s opponent, attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, declined to comment on the measure when contacted by The Times.

“Effectiveness, interpretation and enforceability of [anti-encampment] The ordinance will certainly be brought before the next LA city attorney,” she said in a statement. “And if I were a city attorney, I would like the opportunity to consult with my client – ​​the LA City Council – before taking on a permanent position.”

A citywide contest where there is some agreement on the council’s approach is the race for mayor. US Representative Karen Bass and real estate developer Rick Caruso, both running for mayor, both support restrictions on prisons near schools and daycare.

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