What Should I Do About Homeless Encampments in My Neighborhood?

Over the course of the past five or six years, there has been a migration involving homeless people from downtown Los Angeles and Skid Row to communities across LA County. In addition, homeless encampments have been spreading in a similar fashion.

You may live in a neighborhood in which this type of activity is occurring with homeless people and encampments. As you see more and more homeless people and encampments appearing in your neighborhood, you may be wondering what you should do in response.

There are some strategies that you should consider employing in regard to homeless people and encampments you encounter in your neighborhood. There are also some steps that you should not take when it comes to homeless people and encampments in your area.

Protect Your Property

A general step you need to take when you begin to see homeless people and encampments in your neighborhood, consider a review of your home security. In this regard, give serious consideration to installing cameras around the perimeter of your property. You will also want to make sure that you have a comprehensive alarm system covering doors and windows, as well as motion sensors within your home.

When homeless people begin to appear in your neighborhood, or if a homeless encampment rises, you should also put no trespassing signs at different locations around the perimeter of your property. You can file a no trespassing form with local law enforcement serving your neighborhood. This helps to buttress the effectiveness of no trespassing signs placed on the property. The form needs to be filed annually.

Request Homeless Encampment Cleanup

If the homeless encampment is on public property, request a cleanup from the government agency responsible for keeping public areas clean.

In Los Angeles you can place the request on MyLA311.

For homeless encampment cleanup on private property, you’ll need to hire the services of a biohazard cleaning company that specializes in removing homeless encampments such as Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company.

Contact Law Enforcement

Contact law enforcement about the situation in your neighborhood. Depending on the community in which you reside, you may not get much of a response from the police or sheriff. In some communities, you may be able to get a response. There are some steps you can to better ensure some type of activity from law enforcement. (Those are discussed later in this article.)

If you do observe a crime being committed by a homeless individual or criminal activity at or around a homeless encampment, that does provide you an immediate reason to contact the police or sheriff. Depending on the nature of the crime you observe, you may be able to get a relatively rapid response from law enforcement.

California law does permit a person to pursue a citizen’s arrest. This may also be a tool you can use when you are facing homeless people and a homeless encampment in your neighborhood.

In California, if you observe someone committing a misdemeanor, you can contact law enforcement. A misdemeanor is a more minor type of crime. When you are dealing with homeless individuals or a homeless encampment, these types of crimes include:

  • Trespassing
  • Public intoxication
  • Public urination

You report that you’ve witnessed a crime to the police or sheriff. An officer will be dispatched to your location. You will be asked to sign off on an arrest warrant. You will also need to promise that you will appear and testify in the prosecution of the person for whom you participated in making a citizen’s arrest.

As an aside, you do not actually take a person into custody or restrain them in any way. You do not have any type of physical conduct with the individual you “arrested.” All of that is up to law enforcement.

Dealing with an Older or Minor Homeless Person

If you encounter an older or minor homeless person, consider contacting Adult Protective Services or Child Protective Services. These are agencies under the auspices of the California Department of Social Services. You can make a report to both agencies online through this link.

Depending on the circumstances for people in these categories, there may be some type of assistance that can be provided to an older adult or child. The net effect of that can be getting a person who has been living on the streets in your neighborhood into a better situation not only for that individual but for you and your family as well. 

What Not to Do

No matter how badly you feel about a homeless individual’s situation, you should not give them money or even food. Taking steps like this can result in entanglements that you didn’t anticipate. You most definitely should not bring food to a homeless encampment. Indeed, you should avoid any type of unnecessary direct contact with an encampment or any undue interaction with the residents of an encampment.