New laws across county causing many homeless to want to leave LA area entirely
By Evan Symon, California Globe
Less than a week following Culver City’s sweeping tent and homeless encampment ban, those who work with the homeless in Southern California a
re now faced with a stark new reality.
For years, Los Angeles and the dozens of other cities in LA County have had a large-scale back and forth between homeless encampment bans and lawsuits that wind up reversing or softening most of them. Some have managed to stick, such as an LA ordinance passed last year that bans homeless encampments from being near schools and daycares. In 2021, another ordinance had banned them from setting up on sidewalks and many public areas. However, others haven’t, such as an ordinance that banned people from sleeping in cars.
But, with the homeless crisis worsening in and around LA, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass struggling to get a handle on the situation, many cities have turned to more drastic solutions. Some have attempted retrying Project Roomkey despite previous failures, but major resistance from motel owners and homeless people themselves have stalled that effort in many locales. Instead, total tent and encampment bans have sprung up, including Culver City’s new ordinance passed last week.
Approved by a narrow 3-2 vote by the Culver City Council, the ordinance bans all tent encampments in the city. While more temporary housing and motel rooms will open up to those in need, people who erect tents in areas outside of sanctioned camp sites will receive a citation for breaking the law. The law will go into effect only after enough shelter and bed space become available, to get around a 2018 federal court ruling.
Proponents noted that many homeless from Los Angeles had been coming into the city for some time, and that a law was needed to stop the migration, halt the strain on city resources, and help keep the city safe.
“A fear of mine is if we don’t have all the tools in place to help our own unhoused and Los Angeles already have the enforcement along our borders, then those who refuse housing will just cross the street into Culver City, and then further strain our resources,” said Culver City Councilman Dan O’Brien last week.
Opponents countered that the ordinance virtually criminalizes being homeless, didn’t take into account those that don’t want assistance, and could lead the way for a serious legal challenge.
“I am very disappointed,” Culver City Councilwoman Yasmin-Imani McMorrin said following the vote.” I feel this is an incredibly harmful policy that doesn’t add anything other than punitive measures.”
Changes in LA County
But on the streets, there has been a huge change, one of which could spread throughout the County.
“The homeless are feeling cornered right now,” explained Ryan Shea, a homeless housing coordinator in Southern California, to the Globe on Monday. “Culver City was just the latest, but all these ordinances and laws that are springing up, the homeless don’t know where to go. Lately, when I try to get them to a shelter or at least away from setting up near a busy street, comments have have gone from ‘Where should I go?’ to ‘Can the city send me back home?’”
“It’s not that they don’t like LA, it’s just that they are being more and more limited into where they can go. All these RV laws too are sending people scrambling. I talked with several RV owners last week, and they need to circle around for hours some nights looking for any legal place to park for the night, but there are just so many street ordinances nowadays that it is difficult.”
“So when they say ‘I wish I was back in Baltimore’ or something, and we say ‘Would you like a bus ticket there?’ they respond pretty positively. The same goes for many lifelong LA homeless. Many of them want to go to Vegas or other cities because they heard it was better there. In Hawaii, they give one way tickets to the homeless off the islands to the mainland. Some other cities pay for airfare to get them out. New laws like the Culver law are leading more and more homeless to ask us for a Greyhound ticket someplace else, and we don’t have a program for it. We’re spending so much on them here that it seems to never occur to us that maybe use a fraction of that and see where they would want to go. That’s what these laws are doing. They are making them want to find someway out and leave these cities, but we aren’t providing an option for them to leave permanently, only forcing them to shuffle from city to city. You know, this isn’t like Texas and Florida flying up migrants up to Massachusetts. They want a way out because these laws have forced it on them..”
Other homeless limiting ordinances are expected to be passed later this year in cities across LA County.
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nances are expected to be passed later this year in cities across LA County.