Los Angeles OKs sweeping ban on homeless camps near schools
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers during a meeting that was disrupted by protesters who said it criminalizes homelessness.
The council voted 11-3 to vastly broaden an existing ban on sitting, sleeping or camping that currently only applies to daycare centers and schools specified by the council. The vote, which applies to public and private schools, came after a previous vote last month failed to pass unanimously.
The meeting was recessed for about an hour before the vote after dozens of people became unruly, at one point chanting “shut it down!”
A second and final vote will still be needed next week.
About 750 public school sites are within the city limits, Los Angeles Unified School District officials told the Los Angeles Times, which said nearly 1,000 commercial day-care businesses are registered with the city. The next public school year starts on Aug. 15.
Los Angeles is among many cities struggling to deal with a surge in homelessness and large encampments scattered along sidewalks that have sparked public outcry.
Supporters of the blanket ban said homeless camps are a health and safety threat to schoolchildren, especially because of the disruptive presence of people with drug addictions or mental illness.
The camps “are unsafe and traumatic for students, families and staff as they enter school campuses,” Martha Alvarez, who is in charge of government relations for the school district, told the council.
Opponents, including homeless advocates, said the measure would further criminalize homelessness.
The ban comes as several hotels are set to end their involvement in the government’s Project Roomkey, which paid them to provide hundreds of rooms to unsheltered people.