Tue, Feb

Homes Not Zones: The Services Not Sweeps Coalition Exposes LA’s Latest Attempt to Criminalize Unhoused Angelenos


GUEST COMMENTARY--On October 21, LA City Councilmembers Blumenfield, Buscaino, Rodriguez, Krekorian, Price, Cedillo, and Lee presented a motion to drastically expand the criminalization and banishment of unhoused Angelenos across the city.

The motion instructs the city attorney to amend LA Municipal Codes 41.18 and 56.11, allowing the city to ban: 

  • Sitting, sleeping or lying down within 500 feet of freeways, ramps, and tunnels
  • Sitting, sleeping or lying down within 500 feet of any facility opened after January 2018 that provides housing, shelter, services, safe parking, or storage to unhoused people 
  • Storing property in the areas listed above 

This motion does not provide any new housing resources, wrap-around services for those experiencing homelessness, or any solutions to decrease the unhoused population in LA. Instead of focusing on these actual, proven solutions, City Council members are attempting to expand harmful criminalization policies which have only proven to fail and exacerbate homelessness.  

In his statement to LA Times regarding this motion, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield revealed the true motivation behind it: to “create visible progress” for some housed constituents by forcibly displacing encampments from one location to another, and establishing ‘enforcement zones’ to prevent unhoused Angelenos from returning to these locations.  

It is especially cruel to present this motion during an ongoing pandemic, when mass evictions are expected as the Winter season approaches. Where will people shelter from the rain when there aren’t enough housing resources available and the city bans people from resting beneath underpasses? With the death toll for unhoused Angelenos already over 1,000 in 2020, this motion would contribute to another record increase in deaths and an increase in harmful police encounters with the unhoused community. In both cases, unhoused Black Angelenos are disproportionately impacted.  

The Services Not Sweeps coalition rejects this motion and demands that all processes involved in propelling this motion forward be halted immediately, as this motion poses a direct threat to the health and safety of our unhoused neighbors and their surrounding communities.  

We demand that City Council and the Mayor’s office instead invest their time and legislative power into programs that actually help us move forward in providing a healthy and safe living environments for our unhoused communities while they are on the streets, and take concrete action steps in providing transitional/permanent housing opportunities that meet a higher standard of living than current shelter and ABH facilities offer.  

We demand that the city take the following actions immediately: 

  • Focus efforts on providing hotel rooms, motel rooms, and permanent housing to ALL unhoused Angelenos (not just those in specific areas that are visible to the general public)
  • End Special Enforcement and Cleaning Zones (SECZ) permanently 
  • Respect CDC guidelines, and working with health department officials to ensure that basic sanitation needs are met without the threat of displacement 
  • Halt all CARE+ “comprehensive cleanup” operations
  • Remove law enforcement from outreach
  • Repeal LAMC 41.18, LAMC 56.11, and all ordinances used to criminalize unhoused residents.