LA City Council approves street engagement strategy to help the homeless

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles City Council today approved a street engagement strategy to accompany its sweeping ordinance to restrict settlements for sleeping and homeless people in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance went into effect on September 3, but enforcement was limited to accessibility barriers pending city approval of the street engagement strategy.

As part of the engagement, which was approved 14-0, each council office will have at least three engagement teams to deploy to areas selected for enforcement of the ordinance. The teams will evaluate the camps, determine the length of the engagement, collaborate with city and county departments, as well as non-profit organizations, and put camp residents in contact with
temporary and permanent housing services and placements.

Each council office will have control over the deployment of its engagement teams and additional teams will be geographically based, with one in Hollywood, one at the Civic Center, one in the Broadway / Interstate 110 corridor, and four at Skid Row.

“Before us today, we essentially have a first city-wide street engagement strategy. It provides a consistent framework for providing street services and housing connections, both temporary and permanent, to homeless residents living in this city, ”said City Councilor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the Homeless Committee. – shelter and poverty of the city.

The framework was developed by the city’s administrative officer and the chief legislative analyst.

“The time for street engagement couldn’t be more urgent. There is no silver bullet to this crisis – and an ‘app-only’ approach would simply reject homeless residents across the city, from one neighborhood to another. It is a crisis that requires care, compassion and compliance, and this strategy can be our roadmap to see real change in our streets ”,
said Ridley-Thomas.

The city’s new anti-camping law was approved by city council and signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti at the end of July. He amended the city’s current anti-camping law in Municipal Code 41.18 to prohibit sitting, sleeping, lying down, storing personal property or otherwise obstructing the public right of way in several areas of the city, including within two feet of any fire hydrant or fire candle; within five feet of any operational or usable entrance or exit; within 10 feet of a loading dock or aisle; in a manner that interferes with any activity for which the city has issued a permit or restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act; or anywhere on a street, including bike paths.

The law also prohibits camps within 500 feet of a “sensitive” facility, including schools, daycares, parks, and libraries, once council passes a resolution to designate a specific area for it. application, displays signs and gives notice of the date the ordinance will be applied for the area. Areas include:

  • Up to 500 feet from an overpass, underpass, highway ramp, tunnel, bridge, pedestrian bridge, washing or spreading soil , a railway line or when homeless or tented accommodation is unsanitary, dangerous and incompatible with safe passage
  • Up to 1,000 feet from a facility opened after January 1, 2018, which provides shelter, safe sleep, secure parking or navigation centers for homeless people.

The ordinance will also allow the city to prevent encampments for a period not exceeding one year in areas considered to be a permanent threat to public health or safety, in particular because of:

  • Death or serious bodily injury to any person on site due to a hazardous situation
  • Repeated serious or violent crimes or threats of serious or violent crimes, including trafficking in human beings
  • Fires at the place.

The street engagement strategy also includes frameworks for leading engagement during emergencies, including national disasters and public health issues, such as the 2017 hepatitis A outbreak.

City Councilor Mike Bonin presented changes to the framework that will be considered by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee. He said the changes are intended to address the reasons why people may resist housing and shelter placements.

“I think if we approve and base a policy based on the idea of ​​resistance from the service, we blame the people who are not housed of it. And I think it really behooves us to see why somebody else is. one would say no to something we think is a reasonable offer of shelter or housing, ” Bonin said.

Its proposed amendments include:

  • Ensure that social workers, outreach workers and health professionals provide shelter or accommodation, not law enforcement, sanitation workers or municipal staff
  • Match the needs of the homeless person with a valid shelter housing offer, including keeping families together and providing more private housing, as opposed to mixed shelters, for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Provide a route to permanent housing with a valid offer of temporary accommodation, so people can rest assured that they will not be left on the streets without their belongings
  • Transportation of non-housed residents to their refuge by non-members of the law enforcement agencies
  • Provide adequate storage for personal effects
  • Offer alternatives to assembly shelters during times when the Centers for Disease Control and the LA County Department of Public Health advise against assembly shelters.

Bonin added that he wanted the city to adopt the street engagement strategy years ago, and not as an accompaniment to the enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance, against which Bonin voted.

Ahead of the vote on that ordinance, Bonin cited statistics from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that said the city only has accommodation beds for 39% of the homeless population.

“What about the remaining 61%? Bonin asked.

He shared with council members his own past homeless experience, saying, “Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the store, I slept on the beach.”

“I can’t tell you how tormented your heart is when the sun goes down and you don’t know where to sleep. I can’t tell you how demoralizing, dehumanizing and defeating this experience is when you don’t know. where you are. going to sleep, ” said Bonin

He said the ordinance tells people where they can’t sleep, but it doesn’t tell them where they can sleep.

“That’s what it boils down to to me… where can people go, where can people sleep when they have no alternative,” Bonin said.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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