Los Angeles has approved a sweeping ban on homeless encampments near schools

Los Angeles Homeless (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Los Angeles Homeless (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Encampments for the homeless that have sprung up in nearly every Los Angeles neighborhood will no longer be allowed within 152 meters of schools and daycare centers under a sweeping ban approved Tuesday during a City Council meeting disrupted by protesters who said the law criminalizes homelessness.

The council voted 11-3 to extend an existing ban on sitting, sleeping or camping that previously only applied to schools and daycare centers specified by the council.

The meeting was shut down before the vote as dozens of protesters shouted their opposition to the measure and police officers cleared the council chamber. One person was arrested, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Annie Hernandez said.

Protesters also gathered outside City Hall and chanted “Abolish 41.18,” a reference to the law that bans camping on freeway overpasses, around railroad tracks, near loading docks, in libraries and elsewhere.

The final vote, which concerns the city’s public and private schools, came after two previous votes, including one last week that was also interrupted by a violent protest.

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 encampments pose health and safety threats to school children, particularly because of the disruptive presence of people with drug addictions or mental illnesses.

“This is something to protect the children of our city,” Councilman Paul Koretz said before voting for the measure. He said “asking people in a camp to move a couple of hundred feet” should be an easy decision if it means children have a safer ride to and from school.

About 750 public school places are in Los Angeles and almost 1,000 commercial day care businesses are registered in the city. The new public school year starts next Monday.

Opponents of the ban, including homeless advocates, said it would further criminalize homelessness and waste resources better spent on outreach and connecting people in need to services.

Homeless residents are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, the nonprofit organization People Assisting The Homeless, or PATH, said in a statement opposing the measure.

“Thus, enforcement of anti-camping ordinances only displaces people and makes it more difficult for trained outreach staff to re-establish trust. Residents of cleared camps, unless connected to stable permanent housing through a trauma-informed case management process, often return to unsheltered homelessness, PATH said in a statement.

The measure must be signed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti before it takes effect, and his office did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

The ban comes as several hotels are set to end their involvement in the government’s Project Roomkey, which paid hotels to provide hundreds of rooms to unsheltered people.

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