Garcetti Declares “War on Homelessness”

Photo taken in Los Angeles in 2013. Photo: Getty Images

Photo taken in Los Angeles in 2013. Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES—Mayor Eric Garcetti announced yesterday his intention to “declare war on homelessness in the city.”

The mayor will work together with Los Angeles City Council, Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) and other groups “to develop a three-part plan which [he] will be sharing in about a month that is the battle plan for ending homelessness here in Los Angeles,” he said.

Garcetti made his announcement at the grand opening of the New Pershing Apartments, a 69-unit mixed-use housing project near Skid Row, which will include studio and one-bedroom units meant to house some of the city’s more than 25,000 homeless residents.

This follows controversy after Garcetti allowed a pair of ordinances, which activists said would criminalize homelessness, to become law in July.

Garcetti’s homeless policy director, Greg Spiegel, met with members of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) July 10th, following a series of protests staged by the group at the mayor’s Windsor Square home over the ordinances.

The ordinances, which Garcetti allowed to pass into law July 7th by refusing to sign or veto them, prohibit personal property from being left on sidewalks or in parks.

Becky Dennison, co-director of LA CAN, said the meeting was too little too late.

“They had already let the law go into effect.…Unfortunately, it is already being enforced all over the city,” she said.

Spiegel could not be reached for comment.

Dennison said she had already noticed “major sweeps and crackdowns on people’s property” and “increased threats and harassment” even before the law officially went into effect July 18th.

Garcetti said he did not veto the laws because the Los Angeles City Council had agreed to make amendments to them, adding provisions that would make it so medication and personal documents such as birth certificates could not be confiscated.

“They don’t have any control over whether it’s amended,” Dennison said. “What they’re doing right now is giving folks lip service.”

Dana Cremin, chair of the East Hollywood Los Feliz Homeless Coalition (EHLFHC), which recently entered into a contract with People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) to provide increased homeless outreach services locally over the next year, said she sees value in the ordinances.

“When people are limited by what they can keep with them, it encourages them to seek help,” she said.

Cremin said she does not think the ordinances criminalize homelessness, but instead protects pedestrians.

“Oftentimes when we are talking about belongings, we are talking about trash. It’s not like they’re taking people’s TVs and couches,” she said

According to Cremin, tent encampments are of particular concern, as they are inhumane and cause several health and safety issues.

Newly-elected Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson who is co-chair of the Homeless and Poverty Committee, recently called for the removal of one such tent encampment from a vacant lot in South Los Angeles.

Although nothing can be done at this point to reverse the ordinances, Dennison said she hopes Garcetti has learned his lesson for future legislation.

“Refusing to sign laws and letting them go into effect is not an effective policy if you don’t agree with them,” she said.

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