State Watch

LA councilman calls on colleagues to prohibit tents near schools

A Los Angeles city council member on Monday announced a legislative proposal that would prohibit homeless encampments within 500 feet of any public school in the city, prompting pushback from homeless advocates who argue that it would criminalize poverty. 

Councilman Joe Buscaino (D) unveiled the proposal at a press conference held outside a local charter school, arguing that the measure is meant to keep students safe as they return to in-person learning following a long period of virtual classes amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Hundreds of thousands of students are going back to school for the first time in 18-months,” Buscaino, who is running for mayor, said Monday, according to text of his remarks shared with The Hill.

“We have many sensitive use areas in our city, and the most sensitive areas are those where our kids spend their days,” he continued. “That is why I am proposing a no-camping zone around every public school in the City of Los Angeles.”

However, the proposal was met with opposition from local homeless advocates, who gathered around the councilman as he stood at his podium at the news conference, holding signs with phrases like, “Being homeless is not a crime” and “Services not sweeps.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that his event was cut short following an incident in which a protester accused one of the councilman’s aides of pulling down her sign and elbowing her. 

The protester, who identified herself as Stevie, told the Times that Buscaino spokesman Branimir Kvartuc grabbed her sign, after which Stevie tried to stop him and told him to get his hand off of her.

Another protester then reportedly intervened by pushing Kvartuc away and shoving him into Buscaino’s podium.

Kvartuc denied that he elbowed the protester, telling the Times, “I grabbed the stick to move it away from [Buscaino’s] face.”

“That is all that I was doing,” he argued.

Buscaino later Monday tweeted news of his proposal, saying that he also planned on labeling “anti-camping zones” around other public areas, including beaches and parks.

The councilman also shared data from the LA Homeless Services Authority showing that there are more than 1,000 beds available at homeless shelters in the area.

Buscaino’s proposals follow a new anti-camping law in the city that prohibits people from sitting, lying on or holding property on sidewalks within 500 feet of “sensitive uses,” including parks, libraries and schools, according to the Times.

City officials have proposed additional measures over how the law should be enforced, though some of community leaders have opposed the efforts, including LA School Board President Kelly Gonez, who tweeted that Buscaino’s proposal was “incredibly disappointing.” 

“Permanent housing is the solution to homelessness, and this action gets us no closer to solving the current humanitarian crisis,” Gonez added.

Tags California Cycle of poverty homeless homeless shelters Homelessness Los Angeles The Los Angeles Times
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