Los Angeles has what is presumed to be the largest homeless population in the United States. And over the last few years, there have been times when this group has been decidedly at odds with other residents. There are numerous and widespread homeless encampments within the city and lawmakers are struggling with solutions to what many see as the city’s biggest issue. Now, it looks like there is going to be a new law put into place to ban homeless residents from setting up a tent within a certain distance of a public school. The decision by the city to enact this rule has divided folks who recently showed up to voice support or displeasure.
According to Education Week, on Tuesday there was a Los Angeles City Council vote to approve sweeps throughout the city that would remove homeless encampments sitting within 500 feet of public schools as well as daycare centers. Originally there had been a ban on sitting, sleeping, or camping within a certain distance of only designated schools or centers. But this new rule, voted 11-3 at the meeting, greatly expands the number of areas that are now off limits. And it also gives law enforcement significant latitude around how they can remove those who are found in violation. There is still a second vote, scheduled for next week, which will need to go through in order to finalize the ban.
And for those wondering, this will now include a massive area that is off limits to any kind of homeless encampment. There are about 750 public schools and more than 1,000 qualified daycare centers in Los Angeles city limits. This new rule from the Los Angeles City Council comes when school is about to start back up in the city. Summer break ends on August 14th for public schools in the city and the council is clearly trying to push this through to have the homeless population removed from around schools before that date.
There were both supporters and detractors to this seeming ban on homeless near schools in the city. On the one hand, citizens have argued that the homeless population in Los Angeles has reached an unmanageable level with the latest number estimating there are more than 160,000 homeless residing in the state and about 58,000 or so residing in Los Angeles County. Folks say this is not only a tax and logistical burden on the city, but also produces a number of health and safety risks. On the other side of the aisle, there are those who say this new law will essentially criminalize homelessness and make it so law enforcement can now take extreme measures in order to force the 500-foot ban.
And according to Yahoo News, another possibly important factor in all of this is that an initiative by the city (Project Roomkey) that incentivized hotels to give rooms to the homeless population is set to expire. Things could be boiling over where this situation is concerned in Los Angeles. Some of it could come down to whether this council vote is ultimately upheld.