Like every American city in the Age of the 99 Percent, Los Angeles has a significant homeless problem.
Full-on shantytowns are now a feature of LA’s urban landscape, with colonies of desperate men and women setting up camps, and building shelters out of tarps, wherever they can find safe space to do so. The city’s homeless population rose 20% over the last two years, now estimated at 26,000 human beings, fellow Americans.
What to do about such a problem? Build affordable housing? Increase shelter outreach? Provide mental health and substance abuse counseling? Job training? Compassion for those less fortunate?
The Los Angeles City Council approved a law Wednesday that limits the possessions of homeless people to what can fit in a 60-gallon trash bin. The measure spoke to the will of the people, passing on a 13-1 vote, with some hippie councilman opposing. Another city councilman, who voted for the law, said the measure “balanced the city’s need for safe and clean streets with homeless people’s personal property rights.”
As long as those personal property rights are limited to what the LAPD, acting on behalf of the well-to-do, can easily throw away.
But some good news: the council backed off even stricter rules that would have limited homeless people to what they could carry in a backpack. But the law allows the city to clamp down in this way in the future without further public discussion.
Under the new measure, the city can impound homeless people’s “excess personal property” after providing 24 hours’ notice. The city will store the items for 90 days, during which time the owners can claim them. But they cannot evade further confiscation by moving the items to another public area, the ordinance says.
With no advance warning, the city can seize and impound a tent that has not been taken down during the day. Bulky and contaminated items can be seized and discarded without warning. Wheelchairs, crutches and walkers are currently exempt.
“We recognize this is just one step forward to address the homelessness crisis,” said the president of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.
Why, next thing you know the LAPD will just start putting rounds downrange and deal with the homeless in what will no doubt be called the final solution, of freedom.
(FYI: The photo above is my own, taken in New York City’s Washington Square Park; the one below, of Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, was taken by someone else)
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