L.A. Shifts Homeless Policy to Clear Street Encampments

Advocates say L.A.'s new focus on clearing 'unsightly' homeless encampments is a political band-aid that won't help people find permanent housing.

November 22, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Los Angeles Protest

Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock

Benjamin Oreskes and Doug Smith report on a new policy in the city of Los Angeles aimed at clearing homeless encampments that critics say is an inhumane and politically motivated solution to a much bigger problem.

The approved motions authorize the city to post signs notifying people camped in the designated locations that they have 14 days to leave. Outreach workers will offer shelter beds to everyone affected to keep the city in compliance with a federal court ruling that prohibits the ticketing or arrest of anyone for camping in a public space when no shelter is available.

So far, City Council members have suggested close to 300 locations to designate as off-limits to camping. According to the article, Mayor Eric Garcetti called the policy a balance between the needs of unhoused people and pressures from neighborhood groups. Advocates for the unhoused say that "the change in policy elevates politics over need, creating a squeaky-wheel strategy of clearing those street encampments that have become the biggest liabilities to members of the City Council."

Over 40,000 people experience homelessness in Los Angeles each year, with that number far outpacing the supply of shelter beds or transitional housing. Earlier this year, Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell received widespread criticism during what many perceived as an aggressive clearing of an encampment in Echo Park. While the council has voted to fund more outreach and supportive housing programs, some activists argue that temporary housing solutions like the tiny home villages built this year don't go far enough to provide long-term solutions for unhoused people, who often fall back into homelessness after relocating to transitional housing.

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