LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - Homeless encampments in Los Angeles are now facing enforcement actions after the City Council approved 58 anti-camping locations as part of an ordinance that originally passed last summer.
Though it was a major vote on paper Wednesday, many people are wondering if it will lead to action anytime soon. The process of clearing out encampments starts with notifications, then outreach and finally, if all other measures fail, enforcement.
"The homeless is a huge issue," said Todd Stinson, who works near MacArthur Park, a section of which was closed in mid-October for renovations. Unhoused residents living in tent encampments in the park at the time were offered housing.
As part of the Council's vote today, the sidewalks around the park will not be available for tents to be set up either.
"I think it would be a positive step," Stinson said.
"I want to keep our community clean and, obviously, keep a safe environment. In my case, I have children," said another man.
The anti-camping ordinance has been a major bureaucratic process. It bans encampments from:
- Sidewalks and driveways
- Freeway overpasses and onramps
- Near libraries, parks and schools
- and in front of homeless shelters
However, each location must first be approved by the council.
Councilman Mike Bonin was one of two Council members who voted against approving the banned locations.
"Like our city agencies, our shelters are suffering from mass staff shortages. A much smaller percentage of the unhoused population than the housed population is already unvaccinated. So, pushing people into congregate shelter is particularly perilous," Bonin said.
Councilman and LA Mayoral candidate Kevin de León said that with Omicron cases surging, there's little chance of immediate enforcement of the new ordinance.
"We are cognizant of the surge in Omicron, and there's not going to be any enforcement today, tomorrow or the next day. So, let's sort of de-escalate the drama that's being introduced," he said.
Another candidate for mayor, Councilman Joe Buscaino said there appears to be a never ending stream of excuses when it comes to enforcing the anti-camping ordinances.
"There's more excuses of not wanting to help the homeless. Today it's Omicron. Last month, it was there's not enough support housing, while a thousand people died in our streets last year," he said.
The Reverend Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row, has been on the frontlines of the homelessness crisis for years.
"I'm glad they've done some compromise and more talk and planning on much more outreach, and I think they're almost getting there. And I know critics are saying they want more housing, not shelter. To tell you the truth, we are short of shelter beds still and I would like to see the city come up with more options for immediate shelter, but maybe there's a compromise there too," the reverend said.
Enforcement would only happen after extensive notifications and outreach, clearly not a quick fix to a growing crisis.
"I've seen some effort to help improve that situation with the tiny homes projects and things like that they've done, but doesn't seem like the efforts that we make can keep up with the amount of homeless that seems to be growing," Stinson said.
Currently, there is no timeline for when this ordinance would go into effect, though some within City Hall are suggesting it could be several weeks.
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