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Homeless Camps Will Be Easier To Dismantle After Closed-Door Vote

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Homeless encampment (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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The L.A. City Council has voted behind closed doors to make it easier for authorities to break up homeless camps and remove personal property from sidewalks and parks.

The council gave preliminary approval to two measures that would sharply reduce the warning time given to homeless individuals to move their possessions from 72 hours to just 24 hours, according to the L.A. Times. The two laws—one of which addresses sidewalks, the other parks—also enables city crews to immediately remove chairs, couches and oversized tents. Public comment was blocked as the measures were brought to a vote Tuesday night, despite critics waiting three hours to speak.

Approval of the measures was not unanimous though—Councilman Gil Cedillo was the lone council objector. This means that the laws will be voted on again before they can be approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti and signed into law. KPCC reports that Cedillo voiced his objection to the laws by stating,

Why put our energies on strategies that we know don't work? We've received a report from our [City Administrative Officer] that says we've spent over $100 million addressing the homeless issue in our city. Eighty-five percent of that money was spent on law enforcement, yet we know over the last year the homeless count has increased… We're on the wrong track.
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Supporters of the more aggressive approach argue that the encampments are unsafe and unsightly. They contend that the new laws uphold "homeless people's rights and the public's desire for safe, clean parks and streets," according to the L.A. Times.

Critics—including Cedillo and those who were outside the council doors—argue that the laws only perpetuate failed strategies that criminalize homelessness. They contend that the strategy does little to effectively and humanely address the city's growing homeless population, and will only drive people underground or to other areas.

The proposed measures will be on the City Council's agenda again when they meet on Thursday.