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Community speaks out against bans that would affect people experiencing homelessness

Multiple community organizations in Los Angeles signed a community impact statement opposing an ordinance that would make it illegal for people experiencing homelessness to sit or sleep near city property. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Elizabeth Sherwood

Nov. 19, 2020 6:29 p.m.

Community organizations in Los Angeles have voiced opposition against a proposed Los Angeles City Council ordinance that would make it unlawful for people experiencing homelessness to sit or sleep near city property.

LA City Councilmembers proposed a motion Oct. 21 requesting that Los Angeles ban people from sleeping, sitting or lying within 500 feet of designated freeway overpasses, underpasses, ramps, tunnels or pedestrian subways. Under the motion, people would also be banned from sleeping, sitting or lying within 10 feet of entrances or exits, or anywhere on public property if other shelter is available.

The motion is intended to protect public health and safety by making public property more accessible, according to the urgency clause of the motion. Bob Blumenfield of city council District 3 was one of four councilmembers leading the motion. The four councilmembers did not respond to requests for comment.

The clause added that enforcing the motion will allow the city to encourage people experiencing homelessness to seek out shelters. The motion will also allow the City of LA to promote the accessibility of public walkways in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The North Westwood Neighborhood Council passed a community impact statement to sign a letter opposing the motion. The letter, written by LA’s Services Not Sweeps coalition, was endorsed by Ktown for All and Abundant Housing LA. The council also voted to support a substitute motion that would allow for the use of private hotels to house people experiencing homelessness.

Grayson Peters, vice president of the NWWNC, said police officers could penalize people experiencing homelessness for almost anything under the motion.

People experiencing homelessness could face fines of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to six months for sitting, lying or sleeping anywhere on public property in Westwood Village, Peters added.

Peters said that while he understands the frustration some feel when people experiencing homelessness block public pathways, making this unlawful fails to solve the root cause of the problem.

“The homelessness crisis cannot be solved by laws and policies that simply push the crisis out of view,” Peters said. “The solution to homelessness is not fines and jails, but homes, and the city council must recognize that.”

Several other community advocacy groups, including Services Not Sweeps, Street Watch LA and Abundant Housing LA have also opposed the motion.

Ktown For All, a volunteer-led organization focused on the homeless community in LA’s Koreatown, spearheaded the efforts against Blumenfield’s motion. When the group noticed the motion in city council files, it sprung into action, said Alex Mullenix, a member of Ktown For All’s policy committee.

Ktown For All drafted the letter along with the Services Not Sweeps coalition and was quickly met with support from groups like Ground Game LA, People’s City Council LA and the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, Mullenix said. The group also helped stage protests outside Blumenfield’s home and sent out instructions for the community to call city council and oppose the motion, he said.

“Along with our coalition partners … , we were able to turn out a number of people to the city council meeting to speak in opposition of the measure,” Mullenix said. “While the motion went into the council session with significant support, it was ultimately postponed until late November. I don’t believe that would have happened without the effort that our coalition put into this fight.”

Leonora Camner, executive director of the pro-housing outreach and advocacy organization Abundant Housing LA, said the city should prioritize affordable housing to address homelessness.

Mullenix added that the motion would fail to keep those experiencing homelessness off the streets of LA, instead only punishing them and sending them to another area.

“Clearing a sleeping person off of a sidewalk only sends them somewhere else,” Mullenix said. “And more than likely it won’t be towards housing.”

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Elizabeth Sherwood | Assistant News editor
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
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