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Housing and Homelessness

Garcetti Calls For 'Aggressive Outreach' At Encampments, But Stops Short Of Pausing Sweeps In LA

A row of tents line a sidewalk under the shade of trees.
A homeless encampment on First Street across from Los Angeles City Hall.
(Chava Sanchez
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Advocates for unhoused people are calling on Los Angeles leaders to stop enforcing a local law that allows council members to ban encampments in some areas.

Representatives from several service providers, legal aid and advocacy groups have written a letter to the city, asking them not to engage in enforcement related to L.A. city ordinance 41.18, during the current surge.

John Maceri is CEO of The People Concern and was one of the letter writers. He says it’s hard to get unhoused people indoors right now.

“The congregate facilities are either at capacity or they're under quarantine so they can't accept new residents,” Maceri says, pointing out that non-congregate options like Project Roomkey are hard to come by as well, saying that “most of those are full or in the process of de-mobilizing.”

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41.18, also known as the "anti-camping ordinance,"restricts where unhoused people can sit, lie or sleep. Camping in areas such as sidewalks and public right of way areas near libraries, parks and schools are among the list of prohibited locations.

Mayor Eric Garcetti is not calling for a moratorium, but says the city has to adjust its approach to encampments amid the current COVID surge.

"When we don’t have places for people to go safely into housing that’s not a time when you can ask people to get off the streets but I won’t stop — even in the midst of the pandemic — when we do have housing to really do aggressive outreach to let people know that they don’t have to die on the streets , they don’t have to suffer on the streets, they don’t have to stay on the streets ."

The L.A. County Department of Public Health reports around 250 active outbreaks in encampments, shelters and other "homeless service settings."

The federal government is offering reimbursements that would allow the city and county to rent out more hotel and motel rooms for people who need a place to quarantine or isolate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said if individual housing options are not available, people should be allowed to remain in encampments and that clearing them "increases the potential for infectious disease spread."

Garcetti says the city will continue to clean up the areas where unhoused people are living, even if they are not asked to leave.