Los Angeles Moves Closer to Banning Homeless Camps in Effort to Combat Crisis, Worst in US

Los Angeles leaders backed a new set of restrictions on outdoor homeless encampments in an effort to combat the crisis, which is the worst in the country.

The city council Thursday voted 13-to-2 to approve the ordinance, which would ban encampments in many public spaces—including on sidewalks near schools, daycares, libraries and parks.

But the ordinance required unanimous approval on its first consideration to be adopted. A second vote will likely take place later this month, according to KCBS, where only eight votes are required for it to pass.

Supporters of the ordinance described it as a way to get people off the streets while also restoring order and access to the city's public spaces.

But opponents argue the ordinance will only further criminalize homelessness. Services Not Sweeps, a Los Angeles-based coalition fighting for housing and health-based resources for the city's homeless population, held a protest outside of City Hall as Thursday's vote was taking place.

The coalition said in a statement that the ordinance will lead to an "increase in confrontational encounters between law enforcement and unhoused people" and is an example of how city leaders remain "unable to address the core cause of homelessness."

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas disputed those arguments, stating on Twitter he and his colleagues amended the proposal to ensure that anti-camping violations would result in fines, not jail time.

The new encampment limitations wouldn't be enforced until the council officially passed the resolution, posted signs and gave a two-week notice of the changes.

California has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation with more than 161,000 people unhoused, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2020, the Golden State accounted for 28 percent of the nation's homeless population.

Los Angeles city and county reported the second-highest number of people experiencing homelessness last year at 63,706. New York City had the highest number of homeless people with 77,943.

LA Leaders Back Limits on Homeless Encampments
Los Angeles leaders have backed a new set of restrictions on outdoor homeless encampments in an effort to combat the crisis, which is the worst in the country. In this photo, homeless veterans are housed in 30 tents on a sidewalk in West Los Angeles as viewed on April 22, 2021. George Rose/Getty Images

In May, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed $12 billion in new funding to help combat homelessness in the state. The plan, Newsom said, aims to "functionally end family homelessness" within five years.

The investment would be broken into three parts: $8.75 billion for homeless housing units and affordable apartments; $3.7 billion for homeless prevention and rental support; and $1.5 billion to clean up roadways and public spaces.

"There's no greater manifestation of our failure as a society broadly, or as a state more specifically, than the issue of homelessness," Newsom said at a press conference on May 11. "And that's what brought to bear a strategy to do something radically different."

Newsweek reached out to the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for comment but didn't receive a response before publication.