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Readers React: Why arresting people for being homeless is a terrible way to provide services

LAPD officers arrest a man on skid row for possession of a stolen shopping cart in 2016.
LAPD officers arrest a man on skid row for possession of a stolen shopping cart in 2016.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The Times Editorial Board’s suggestion that “officers need to have the resources to offer a homeless person an alternative to a citation or arrest on the spot” perpetuates the notion that homeless people who are arrested are service-resistant, or that there are services that can prevent a person from engaging in the behaviors for which they are cited. (“Everyone knows we can’t arrest our way out of homelessness. So why is L.A. still trying?” editorial, Feb. 16)

Many homeless people already are working with a service provider when they are cited or arrested for sitting on the sidewalk, having an illegal shopping cart or urinating in public.

Even the best, most effective services do not stop a person from needing a place to rest or go to the bathroom, or a way to manage his or her belongings — only a home can do that. One can have a case manager, a mental health worker, a support group and even a job, and still be cited for violating one of the many laws that punish a person for being homeless (to say nothing of an arrest disrupting a person’s treatment or access to services).

The answer to the criminalization of homelessness is not to use arrests as a way to force services. It is to stop arresting people for being homeless.

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Shayla R. Myers, Los Angeles

The writer is a staff attorney the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook


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