Published in the Valley Vantage- September 23, 2021
I’ve written often about my efforts to address the homelessness crisis in the West Valley by expanding services, creating transitional housing, and increasing affordable and permanent supportive housing. In my district, we’ve created hundreds of new beds and recently passed the mark where we have as many beds as unsheltered folks on the street according to the 2020 Homeless Count. Having these beds makes it easier to implement laws like the new 41.18 that allows for certain limits on where people can set up encampments.
This week, as I said I would do as soon as legally possible, I submitted a resolution to make the areas that are within 500 feet from freeway under and overpasses (Corbin and Bowlero), locations within 1000 feet from any of the new homelessness intervention sites (ie Cabin Communities), and around Winnetka Park, which has been dealing with a particularly challenging issues, off-limits to encampments. In all there are 26 specific locations that fall within the described parameters (see map).
A few more steps, including getting the full Council to adopt this resolution, need to be taken before these areas become off-limits. Intensive outreach over a two week period will need to be done to make sure that all encampment residents are offered services and shelter and are not caught off-guard by the change.
Two months ago, the City Council passed the new LAMC 41.18, which I co-authored, that enabled certain streets and sidewalks near sensitive use areas like new homeless housing, schools and daycares, as well as underpasses and locations where ADA access was limited, to be eligible to be declared ‘no encampment’ zones. It did not make all of these areas ‘off-limits’, rather it set a process where limited areas could be deemed, through individual Council resolutions, off-limits to encampments. Last week, the Council unanimously supported a new ‘street engagement strategy,’ with protocols for the outreach to homeless people living within encampments, connecting with housing and services. This was critical as the Council had agreed that no 41.18 resolutions would be considered until this strategy was adopted.
Many constituents, as well as residents from around the city, have contacted me on all sides of this issue. Some say this law should be applied everywhere because they don’t believe anyone has the right to live on the sidewalk, some say it shouldn’t be applied anywhere because they fear it criminalizes homelessness, and others asked about the layers of regulations and limits in these rules. My view is one of balance, rooted in the belief that we must strive to get everyone off the sidewalks and into appropriate housing but we cannot punish people who do not have legitimate places to go. We need to be compassionate, but we must also insist on compliance with rules and regulations — people have a right to a roof over their head, but they don’t have a right to every park bench or to occupy every critical corridor.
Also, the reality is that due to many federal court cases, if the City isn’t extremely careful and meticulous in how it restricts encampments, even these limited new tools could easily be taken away by another lawsuit.
Separate from 41.18, with the resumption of CARE+ cleanups after a year and a half hiatus due to COVID, I was able to get our city partners to conduct a comprehensive cleaning of the encampment outside of the Target on Ventura Blvd. Getting the unsheltered people help and cleaning this site have been top priorities, so when these CARE+ teams resumed work, this location was high on the list. But for areas, like the Target, that may never be eligible under the 41.18 resolution process to be off-limits to encampments, they can still be better maintained and cleaned. The main tool to keep those sites clean will be the CARE+ clean up, combined with consistent outreach. This site is now visibly cleaner and many of its former residents are now receiving services and/or are living indoors.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me or my staff by calling 818.774.4330 or by sending us an email at [email protected].
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