Los Angeles

LA Can't Kick Its Homeless Off the Street Unless They've Got Beds for Them

A federal court ruling affecting all western states including California says cities can no longer give tickets to homeless people for sitting or sleeping in public places unless the city provides enough alternative beds for the city's entire homeless population.

Matt and Sativa Peeples are living on the street in downtown Los Angeles. They say just Wednesday, a Los Angeles Police Department officer told them they couldn't set up their tent on a public sidewalk because it violates a city ordinance against public camping.

"She threatened us with a ticket. I said, 'where is an appropriate place to put up your tent?'" Peeples said.

The ACLU of Southern California agrees it's wrong to punish people for sleeping outside when there aren't enough beds indoors.

"What the ninth circuit court said is it's cruel and inhumane punishment, under the eighth amendment of the constitution, to enforce ordinances when people have nowhere else to go," Eve Garrow of the ACLU said.

The LA Homeless Services Authority said the city of LA only has enough shelter beds to house about one third of the city's more than 31,000 homeless people, and most of them are full every night.

But some taxpayers like Kristen Mayberry worry that if cities can't enforce homeless ordinances, encampments will continue to grow.

"The more you can't ticket them they're going to be everywhere. There should be an area for them," she said.

The ACLU hopes the new ruling will force cities to look to permanent affordable housing as a long-term solution, since they'll be forced to stop ticketing.

"This is now the law of the land and cities and municipalities have to change their practices. They have to prohibit enforcement of these ordinances until people have a reasonable, and accessible alternative to homelessness," Garrow said.

The LA City Attorney's office said they're reviewing the new court ruling to determine how best to enforce the ordinance going forward.

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