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Homeless People Can Self-Isolate In Tents, But Encampment Sweeps Stay

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An L.A. City HOPE team seizes a tent in Hollywood in Spring 2019. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)
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In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles City Council voted late tonight to allow homeless residents to self-isolate in their tents — but stopped short of halting encampment cleanups, known as sweeps.

Council members Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawsin, and Gil Cedillo had argued that the enforcement of laws pertaining to homeless encampments “effectively prohibits people from self-quarantining and maintaining social distance.”

“The ideal solution is to provide housing and shelter and allow people to move out [of] encampments and come indoors,” the councilmembers wrote in the motion.

“In the meantime, people remain on our streets, in tents and underneath tarps. Multiple, urgent efforts must be undertaken to the public health issues from and in encampments.”

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The motion called for:

  • Allowing 24-hour access to restrooms at parks, libraries, and other public buildings.
  • Installation and maintenance of port-a-potties, dumpsters and hand-washing stations at major encampments.
  • Expanding weekly shower service.
  • Partial suspension of city law L.A.M.C 56.11 which requires tents to be broken down during the daytime.

Those proposals passed, though with some hedging to allow city departments a little bit of time to prepare.
An additional proposal to end the seizure and confiscation of materials and personal property over 60 gallons was voted down.

The motion directs city departments to produce a list of vacant or underutilized public properties that could be used as emergency housing, as well as parking lots and other spaces that could be used as “Emergency Safe Camping Zones.”

The state of California was also asked to immediately expand shelter for unhoused residents in unused motel and hotel rooms, and for formal policy guidance on how to address the public health problems created by homeless encampments.

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