California city passes law banning tents in a desperate attempt to curb homelessness
A new ordinance in Culver City, California aimed at clearing out camps for the homeless has been met with harsh criticism from leaders and residents. A tent ban will displace the most vulnerable to make room for gentrification in this fast-paced city, reports Yahoo.
Councilors in the city where the new Apple campus was proposed and where the median home price is just under $1 million voted earlier this week to ban tents and makeshift structures in public spaces.
With over 170 people living in tents and cars and sleeping outdoors on sidewalks and under overpasses, California is the epicenter of the nation's homeless crisis. But few, if any, communities have been able to significantly reduce the number of homeless living within their borders.
A 2018 federal court decision found that if there are no free beds in a shelter, then criminalizing the homeless, including not sleeping in public places, violates the US Constitution and amounts to "cruel punishment."
Pros and cons
Supporters of the ordinance in Culver City say the city must keep pace with surrounding communities to prevent more homeless people from taking up residence on its streets. But opponents say the ruling was hastily passed and would criminalize the homeless, especially blacks and Hispanics. They also note that while the Los Angeles ordinance applies to areas near schools and daycares, Culver City's ordinance applies to the entire city, which could cause legal problems.
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“I am very disappointed,” said Culver City Council member Yasmin-Imani McMorrin, who was one of two votes against on the six-member council. “I think this is an incredibly harmful policy that adds nothing but punitive measures.”
Several homeless people who will be affected by the ruling say they prefer to live on the street rather than in a shelter and that they won't go there voluntarily.
On a recent windy Roscoe day, Billy Ray Bradley Jr. was sweeping the sidewalk he had called home for more than a decade. When asked if he knew about the new regulation, he shook his head. When asked if he would move voluntarily, he bristled.
“They can't take my tent. This is my personal property,” he said. "I'm not going anywhere."
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Nearby, Walter Lindsey was clearing debris from his camp under a busy freeway overpass. He moved to Culver City from downtown Los Angeles two weeks ago and said he prefers the "relaxed" environment in the area. He now lives behind a makeshift wall of plastic tarps and cardboard boxes near Camp Bradley. The two made it their mission to sweep the sidewalk daily to ensure foot traffic and avoid complaints to the police about their belongings.
Like Bradley, Lindsey was unaware of the new ruling and had no back-up plan in case he was asked to move.
“I think I need to prepare them,” he said of his homeless neighbors.
“As long as the weather is good, I’d rather be outside than locked up in an orphanage,” he said. “It’s all too depressing.”
During a heated city council debate on Feb. 20 evening, officials said the ban would not apply until the city met key goals, including opening a dedicated campground where homeless residents can set up their tents and converting 73 hotels and motels into permanent and temporary housing.
Together, these two programs will add approximately 100 beds for the homeless. According to a 2022 tally, there are about 350 homeless people living on the streets of Culver City.
“Continuing to criminalize people for being poor, for fighting, has never pulled anyone out of poverty and never will,” said Brian “Bubba” Fish, a member of the city’s homeless advisory committee. “And yet we continue on the same path.”
According to the city, there is no clear timeline for when housing will become affordable. Officials have not specified who will be tasked with clearing the camps and what coercive measures, such as fines and arrests, will be used if people refuse to move.
"We're putting the cart before the horse," said Culver City Councilman Freddie Puza, who voted against the ordinance. “I just don’t know what the next steps are.”
How about the neighbors
In nearby Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass spent most of her first two months in office issuing emergency orders aimed at quelling the ongoing homeless crisis.
In December, Bass said her plan to move the homeless into shelters immediately "won't affect everyone, but hopefully will affect a significant number."
She said people would not be forced to move, but sanitation teams would stand by to clean up the area after people had left.
Bass declared a homelessness emergency on her first day as mayor and said she intended to move more than 17 homeless people into temporary and permanent housing during her first year in office.
She has since issued emergency directives to free up surplus and unused property for housing, clean up camps through the city's Inside Safe program, and pushed for a $50 million emergency fund to fund homeless initiatives.
According to the 2022 count, more than 69 homeless people were left homeless every night in Los Angeles County, up 000% from 4,1.
Buss's emergency declarations seem to have set off a domino effect in nearby cities like Santa Monica and Culver City, which have begun issuing their own declarations in recent weeks.
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But efforts to address the most obvious signs of homelessness have failed to address what many experts believe is the root cause of the crisis: the lack of affordable housing.
“No one should be under any illusion that the camps can suddenly disappear,” said John Macery, CEO of The People Concern. “It won't happen in a minute. It took 50 years."
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