L.A. City Controller Calls for Measures to Address Proliferation of Homeless Encampments

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 9

Controller Ron Galperin calls on City to address public health and safety risks, help people experiencing homelessness store belongings and better utilize City-owned properties

Los Angeles – The proliferation of homeless encampments in the City is a unique public health and safety crisis that demands immediate action, City Controller Ron Galperin said in a report released today.

“L.A.’s encampments are one of the most visible signs that our residents are not being served by the status quo. The City must act to protect the health, safety, and accessibility of all Angelenos, housed and homeless alike,” said Controller Galperin. “My latest report identifies several ways to optimize our current scarce resources and address the community impact of homeless encampments.”

Galperin called on City officials to focus on the immediate public health and safety risks posed by encampments, while pursuing the longer-term strategies to address the underlying causes of homelessness. At last count, the City of L.A. had more than 34,000 individuals experiencing homelessness -- of whom more than 25,000 were considered unsheltered -- up 20% from 2016, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Recent health crises in San Diego and Los Angeles County, as well as reports of poor encampment restroom access, place increased pressure on the City to meet the needs of cleanliness and safety for L.A.’s vulnerable unsheltered population -- and for the public at large. In some cases, tents have become safe havens for criminal elements who prey on people experiencing homelessness.

Controller Galperin’s newly issued report reviews the approach and effectiveness of the City’s encampment policies and assesses related outreach, cleanup and assistance efforts -- and notably the roles of the City’s Bureau of Sanitation (LASAN) and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The report recommends the following to address the City’s homeless encampments and the related needs to improve health, safety and accessibility of Angelenos:

  • Enforcing measures intended to protect everyone’s rights to safe, healthy and accessible public spaces in an equitable and responsible manner.

  • Intervening and cleaning before an encampment grows to the point of requiring extensive staffing, environmental protections and involuntary storage.

  • Streamlining the cleanup and enforcement process.  

  • Improving systems of communication and establishing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the LASAN, LAPD, and secondary agencies that play a role in cleanups.

  • Expanding storage capacity for voluntary storage -- and transportation for both people experiencing homelessness and their personal property.

  • Assessing of current protocols related to homeless encampments.

  • Using underutilized City-owned properties for voluntary storage of unsheltered residents’ personal property, for emergency shelters, designated encampment areas and/or longer-term development of affordable and supportive housing.

Read the full report at lacontroller.org/encampments.