US City Approves Sweeping Ban on Homeless Encampments Near Schools


Homeless encampments that have sprung up in nearly every Los Angeles neighborhood will no longer be allowed within 500 feet (152 meters) of schools and daycare centers under a sweeping ban passed Tuesday during a City Council meeting interrupted by protesters. They said the law criminalizes homelessness.

The council voted 11-3 to broadly expand an existing ban on sitting, sleeping or camping that previously only applied to council-specified schools and daycare centers.

The meeting was suspended before the vote when dozens of protesters shouted their opposition to the measure and police officers cleared the council chamber. One person was arrested, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Annie Hernandez said.

Protesters also rallied outside City Hall, chanting “Abolish 41.18,” a reference to the law that prohibits encampments on highway overpasses, around train tracks, near loading docks, in libraries and other places.

The final vote, which applies to the city’s public and private schools, came after two previous votes, including one last week that was also interrupted by a raucous protest.

Los Angeles is one of many cities struggling to deal with a surge in homelessness and large encampments scattered along sidewalks that have sparked public protests.

Supporters of the blanket ban said homeless encampments pose a threat to the health and safety of school children, especially due to the disturbing presence of people with drug addictions or mental illness.

“This is something to protect the children of our city,” Councilman Paul Koretz said before voting on the measure. He said “asking people in a camp to move a few hundred feet” should be an easy decision if it means children have a safer path to and from school.

Around 750 public school sites are located within Los Angeles and nearly 1,000 commercial daycare businesses are registered with the city. The new public school year begins next Monday.

Opponents of the ban, including homeless advocates, said it would further criminalize the homeless and waste resources better spent on outreach and connecting people in need with services.

Homeless residents are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, the nonprofit organization People Assisting The Homeless, or PATH, said in a statement opposing the measure.

“Enforcement of anti-encampment ordinances, then, only displaces people and makes it difficult for trained extension staff to re-establish trust. Residents of cleared encampments, unless connected to stable permanent housing through a trauma-informed case management process, they often return to places without shelter. homeless people,” PATH said in a statement.

The measure must be signed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti before it goes into effect, and his office did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

The ban comes as several hotels are poised to end their participation in the state’s Project Roomkey, which paid hotels to provide hundreds of rooms to people without shelter.

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