Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Adopts New Guiding Principles and Practices for Unsheltered Homelessness
NLCHP Contact: Cassidy Waskowicz
Acting Director of Development & Communications
202-638-2535 ext 105
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (March 7, 2019, Los Angeles, CA) – On February 28, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) adopted new policy that calls for decriminalizing life-sustaining survival actions of the more than 40,000 Los Angelenos who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
The policy, entitled Guiding Principles and Practices for Local Responses to Unsheltered Homelessness, outlines principles that affirm the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness. This guidance cites the Encampment Principles and Practices outlined in the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s 2017 Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding report, and calls for fair policies that prioritize provision of housing and services and discourage the use of the criminal justice system in addressing homelessness. The document shows the commitment of the County to serve those experiencing unsheltered homelessness with respect, dignity, and empathy.
“This new guidance is an important step forward in reversing destructive, ineffective and unconstitutional laws and policies that criminalize homeless people simply for existing,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Our goal now is for the county and cities within it to continue to move forward by ensuring the human right to housing for all its homeless residents, and we stand ready to help them do that.”
According to the guiding document: “Municipal ordinances should not criminalize homelessness. Ordinances that limit necessary, life-sustaining activities such as sitting, sleeping, or eating in public spaces unfairly target people living on the streets. In the absence of adequate alternative or private places to undertake those activities, people have a right to perform these activities in public.”
The guidance originates from “recent court decisions and research into promising practices both locally and nationally.” These court rulings include last September’s Martin v. Boise decision in the 9th Circuit, and last week’s settlement in Mitchell v. Los Angeles. The guidance will also support LAHSA in obtaining additional federal funding to end homelessness, thanks to grant incentives in recent Housing & Urban Development funding applications.
“We are thrilled LAHSA has put on paper the best practices that we researched from across the country and globe on addressing unsheltered homelessness through housing, not handcuffs, and look forward to seeing them implemented,” said Eric Tars, legal director at the Law Center. “We are happy to support to the efforts of our local partners, including LA Community Action Network, Legal Aid Foundation of LA, Neighborhood Legal Services of LA, and the Law Offices of Carol Sobel, whose pressure in the streets, council chambers, and courts all contributed to the adoption of this precedent-setting document by LAHSA.”
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and longterm needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.