Homeless people will be banned from setting up camps within 500 feet of schools and day care centers in Los Angeles, following a tense City Council meeting.
The 11-3 vote came after the session was interrupted by protesters, resulting in two police officers getting injured and one arrest, according to the Los Angeles Times. Last week, protesters had interrupted another session discussing tightening encampment rules.
Council President Nury Martinez condemned the protesters’ move, saying it was inching “one step closer” to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington.
“We cannot legislate in fear,” Martinez said.
Earlier this year, Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and some middle school parents argued for tighter measures around encampments near schools.
“I’ve seen elementary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for our children: individuals with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting profanities to the listening ear of children,” Carvalho told City Council members, according to the LA Times.
However, the measure has also faced strong criticism from those who argue it does nothing to address homelessness in the city.
“If it was really about children’s safety, you would be investing more money in permanent supportive housing, wraparound services and ensuring that people were able to access housing as needed, and not into increased policing,” Steve Diaz told the council Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
Los Angeles is holding a mayoral general election in November, after candidates Rep. Karen Bass, who was endorsed by President Joe Biden, and Rick Caruso failed to secure a majority in the first round, according to Bloomberg. Homelessness is one of the central issues on voters’ minds as over 41,000 people in the city are currently homeless and the latest official count is coming in September, according to KCRW.
Caruso has pledged to make 30,000 new beds available during his first year in office, if elected, and prohibit people from setting up camps in the streets, according to a KCRW report, broadcast on NPR, while Bass promised to find shelter for 15,000 people in that first year.
In 2019, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which encompasses California — affirmed its earlier ruling in Martin v. Boise that punishing homeless people for sleeping in the streets when they have nowhere else to go is unconstitutional.