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LA City Council considering new restrictions on where homeless people can sleep

Posted at 5:13 PM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-23 20:13:24-04

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council will soon vote on a proposed ordinance that would ban the homeless from sleeping in very specific locations.

The current vagrancy law on the books in L.A. bans sitting, lying or sleeping on any public sidewalks, but after several lawsuits by homeless advocates, the city stopped enforcing it.

A 2018 federal court ruling in Boise, Idaho found overarching bans like that are unconstitutional, but left open the possibility of bans on homeless camping in certain areas.

Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell used that finding to come up with a list of areas where he'd like the city to ban encampments.

"There is danger," said O'Farrell. "No matter what someone may say or claim, danger lurks in homeless encampments."

O'Farrell's proposal would ban sitting, lying or sleeping within 10 feet of a driveway or building entrance, within 500 feet of a park, school or daycare center, and on bike paths, bridges, tunnels or pedestrian subways. It would also apply within 500 feet of a newly established homeless shelter, on crowded, public sidewalks, and near large venues.

"It's certainly better than we have now and I think we're heading in the right direction with this," he told Eyewitness News.

But homeless advocates are blasting the proposed ordinance, saying it's just another way the city is trying to hide the growing homeless problem instead of fixing it.

"It's really odd to hear the city say on one hand they care about the public health and safety of all residents and here they are pushing people further away from the public health services that they need," said Jed Parriott of the Services Not Sweeps Coalition. "Blame the politicians for allowing this to happen, for their policies, lack of rent control, destruction of public housing while they allow hotels to go up everywhere."

The proposed homeless limitations still have to be approved by the City Council and could become law in four to six weeks, according to O'Farrell.