Activists call on L.A. City Council to stop arresting homeless people for being homeless

Skid row activists called on the city of Los Angeles on Monday to stop arresting homeless people for keeping tents and other belongings on sidewalks, and asked that enforcement money be directed instead toward building housing.

On the eve of what could be adoption of the most comprehensive homelessness plan in a decade, speakers on the steps of City Hall also said the city should make low-cost, mobile showers available and provide access to existing restrooms and storage units instead of investing in potentially expensive new facilities.

"What ends homelessness is housing," said Eric Ares, an activist with the Los Angeles Community Action Network. "We don't need a 240-page report to know that."

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Both the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors have scheduled meetings Tuesday to begin implementing voluminous plans to curb homelessness, which grew 12% from 2014 to 2015, spreading unsightly encampments throughout the region.

The city is working on modifying an ordinance passed last year to increase sweeps of the camps, where homeless people under a court order are allowed to sleep overnight. The city wants to get homeless property off the streets in the daytime, and is trying to link the sweeps to increased storage for homeless people.

At the news conference Monday, Craig Roberts and General Dogon of the Community Action Network said that while politicians wrestle with the ordinance, the Los Angeles Police Department is taking and destroying tents and other property left even briefly in the streets. 

"This is a technique used by the LAPD to take the most from those who have the least," Roberts said.

The city is also considering allowing churches and homeless service agencies to set up "safe parking" programs  for displaced people who sleep in cars and RVs. Scott Sale, a retired physician and member of Leo Baeck Temple, said his synagogue had been trying for five years to get permission to open its parking lot to homeless people.

"Let the private institutions start the program without all the bureaucracy," Sale said.

Speakers, who included a Black Lives Matter representative, condemned the Los Angeles Police Commission's decision last week to clear police of wrongdoing in the shooting death of Charly Keunang on skid row last March 1.

"The city has a great opportunity to stop what has failed time and time again," Dogon said. "Your delays have become deadly."

Twitter: @geholland

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