LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Sleeping in a car overnight on residential streets or near schools became illegal again in Los Angeles today, with the City Council reinstating a ban that expired June 30, sparking anger among some homeless advocates who erupted into chants of “shame on you.”
The chanting forced the council to briefly pause its meeting while police worked to clear activists from the council chamber. One woman, identified by activists as a member of the homeless-advocacy group KTown for all, was detained by police but it was unclear if she was actually arrested.
The council's 13-0 vote reinstated the car-sleeping ban for six months. It was passed with an urgency clause, meaning it will take immediate effect. The ban prohibits people from sleeping or living in vehicles parked on residential streets or within 500 feet of schools between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
It was illegal for decades to live in a vehicle in the city until a 2014 federal court ruling struck down the ban. The council responded by drafting the law that made it illegal to live in a vehicle in certain areas. The council extended the law by six months in June 2018, then voted again in December 2018 to extend it for another six months while it works on a more permanent law.
But the ban expired on June 30, while the council was on its summer recess.
Homeless advocates have long criticized the law, saying it criminalizes people when they're at their most vulnerable.
Several dozen people spoke out against the ban on Tuesday, saying the law is punitive and puts homeless people at risk by forcing them out of their cars and onto the streets.
One speaker, Jose Garcia, said he owns a parking business in Koreatown. He said that while people sleeping in their cars has hampered his business, especially in RVs, he doesn't call police because he doesn't want to contribute to the criminalization of homeless people. He said he opposed the ban and would dedicate time to helping prevent homelessness.
Another speaker who identified herself as a member of the group Services Not Sweeps said, “You're harming people who have the least amount among us. The city should work on emergency measures to find places for people to park and forms of housing.”
The city has already dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars this year to homeless and permanent supportive housing on top of millions more for cleanup and outreach services, but critics have said the city has not done enough to mitigate the homeless crisis.
Heidi Liu, an attorney with Public Counsel, said the ban is counterintuitive because forces more people out of their cars and into tents, increasing the homeless population.