Report: LA’s No Camping Zone Law ‘Mostly Ineffective’ at Housing People

no camping zone law encampment sweep

Credit Image: © Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMA Press Wire


A report by LA’s chief legislative analyst found that Ordinance 41.18, intended to prevent homeless encampments in public spaces, has been “mostly ineffective” at housing homeless individuals, with 81% of sites repopulating post-sweep and many individuals returning to encampments.


An ordinance designed to prevent encampments from forming in Los Angeles’ public spaces has been “mostly ineffective” at housing homeless individuals, according to a report from the city’s chief legislative analyst.

Overall, the report found that roughly 81% of encampment sites engaged by the city’s homeless outreach teams repopulated after a homeless sweep. About 40% of people—or more than 700 of the 1,800 who were engaged during this time—returned to the former encampment site within two weeks of a sweep, according to the report.

One primary reason for their return is that they were not connected with housing or services. More than 94% of people engaged sought housing, although many were connected with interim housing or shelter beds in congregate settings. Another 81% of contacts allegedly received services. However, the report does not specify what services or how long they stayed in a particular program.

Moreover, the city spent roughly $3 million to connect about 315 people with permanent or supportive housing options since the ordinance was enacted in September 2021. That total represents just 17% of homeless people contacted by law enforcement or outreach teams over that time.

The findings led analysts to conclude that “the results purportedly lag behind other ‘more effective’ policies such as Inside Safe.”

Shortcomings of 41.18 in Addressing Unsheltered Homelessness

LA leaders initially passed Ordinance 41.18—which prohibits sleeping, lying down, or sitting in public right of ways—in September 2021 to mitigate the sharp increase in unsheltered homelessness seen during the first years of the pandemic. Federal data shows that about half of the more than 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles are unsheltered.

According to the report, the ordinance created a seven-step system that is supposed to “[maximize] housing placement efficiency through a unified strategy of engagement and collaboration” across city departments and agencies. However, this process became littered with incomplete data that could help it achieve its stated goals. For instance, the assessment found that encampment locations don’t have a unique identifier, and city staff were given inadequate instructions on how to calculate encampment repopulations.

The report mentioned LA’s Inside Safe program, which placed homeless people into temporary shelters at hotels and motels, as a better alternative to its enforcement of ordinance 41.18. However, the legislative analyst caveated that comparing the two programs is not apples-to-apples because Inside Safe is principally a housing program, whereas 41.18 is a law enforcement mechanism.

LA’s Inside Safe database shows that roughly 2,700 Angelenos out of more than 21,000 people engaged in the program have been put into some kind of housing, while another 500 people have been permanently housed through the program.

Given the size of the issue LA is facing, “there is likely no single solution that will meet the needs of the entire city…,” the report added.

Expert Concerns About LA’s No Camping Zone Law

Since the report was published in late May, some LA city council members have started trying to find ways to improve the ordinance to make it more effective. For instance, councilwoman Kat Yaroslavsky told the Westside Current that she wants to see new no-camping zones accompanied by credible offers of shelter or housing and enhanced data collection. There are currently more than 2,000 no-camping zones across the city.

Yaroslavsky added that she wants to see more even enforcement of the law going forward, despite the report’s suggestion that the law is almost completely ineffective at connecting people with housing options. She said she wants to see the city offer housing to people living at an encampment before a new no-camping zone is created, not after.

“That way, we will ensure that when someone is asked to move from a newly designated location, they have somewhere to go and are not just shuffled somewhere else without being offered a bed,” Yaroslavsky said.

The calls to improve ordinance 41.18 also seem to cut against the advice of experts, many of whom say that sweeping homeless encampments makes homelessness worse. Sweeps have been shown to take as many as 20 years off of a homeless individual’s life. They can also cause homeless people to lose personal belongings like medication and identity documents.

How You Can Help

Now is not the time to be silent about homelessness in California or anywhere else. Unhoused people deserve safe and sanitary housing just as much as those who can afford rent or mortgage.

Poverty and homelessness are both policy choices, not personal failures. That’s why we need you to contact your officials and tell them you support legislation that:

  • Streamlines the development of affordable housing
  • Reduces barriers for people experiencing homelessness to enter permanent housing
  • Bolsters government response to homelessness

Together, we can end homelessness.


Robert Davis

Robert Davis

Robert is a freelance journalist based in Colorado who covers housing, police, and local government.

Related Topics



Get the Invisible People newsletter


RECENT STORIES

homeless woman grants pass

Cathy

disabled homeless man in Grants Pass

Chad

Elderly homeless woman in Grants Pass, Oregon

Brenda

Homeless woman on the sidewalk in Miami

Gabby


RECENT ARTICLES

restrictive zoning laws hinder development of affordable housing

Restrictive Zoning Laws Exacerbate the Housing Shortage Crisis in D.C.

Mental Health Crisis, Homelessness

From Hippocrates to Homelessness: A Journey Through Medical Ethics and Social Neglect

Tiny Homes under construction for homeless people

Homeless Housing Projects Face Delays as Need Grows

public bathrooms

Adding Public Bathrooms in NYC is a Small Step in the Right Direction

Get the Invisible People newsletter