Impact Of Homeless Encampments On The Environment

In Los Angeles County, and elsewhere in Southern California, there as been a considerable amount of debate and discussion about homeless encampments. A few years ago, the City of Los Angeles appeared ready to take firm action designed to eliminate homeless encampments. At that time, a slim majority of the City Council maintained that homeless encampments were hazardous to those men, women, and children who resided at these tent cities. There were other negative impacts associated with homeless encampments at that time as well that included:

  • Harm to other members of the community
  • Damage to businesses near encampments
  • Drain on city resources
  • Harm to the environment

Ultimately, and largely because of the efforts of homeless advocates, the City of Los Angeles backed away from its stated intentions of working to eliminate homeless encampments. Rather, the city too a different approach and devised a system whereby it would fairly regularly cleanup homeless encampments, but let the residents of these encampments to stay.

Despite the positioning of the city government, and its current policy towards these gatherings, homeless encampments do have a negative impact on the environment.

Trash

Members of homeless encampments oftentimes pay little head to what is required to properly dispose of trash and garbage. By failing to follow appropriate protocols regarding the disposal of garbage, trash ends up accumulating in a manner that is harmful to the environment.

Human Waste

One of the more significant negative impacts a homeless encampment has on the environment is found in the fact that human waste typically is released into the open. This includes both feces and urine. The release of human waste in this manner contaminates the ground and water. It also exposes residents of encampments and other members of the public to hazardous materials.

As an aside, with the support of homeless advocates and environmentalists, and over the objection of many other groups in the community, Los Angeles has started to place portable restrooms at the location of some of the larger homeless encampments in the community.

Other Biohazardous Materials

Speaking of dangerous biological materials that impact the environment and are associated with homeless encampments, other biological materials are released at these encampments. These include:

  • Blood
  • Other bodily fluids
  • Vomit

Needles

The incidence of drug usage is high at homeless encampments. This includes the use of illegal substances like:

  • Heroin
  • Meth
  • Cocaine


These drugs oftentimes are injected by users in encampments. The contaminated needles used in this process are nearly always tossed onto the ground, inappropriately disposed of by these individuals.

Fires

Many wildfires, and similar types of blazes, are caused by people rather than natural occurrences. Each and every year, fires of this nature – that can have a devastating impact on the environment – are caused by people living in homeless encampments. Much discussion as been had as to whether and how a fire or fires started in homeless encampments contributed to the wildfires that ravaged California in recent months.

Abusive Camping Practices

Another way in which homeless encampments cause harm to the environment is through what are known as abusive camping practices. Those associated with a homeless encampment rarely follow the basic protocols associated with proper camping practices designed to limit the impact on the environment. In reality, homeless people are not intent on harming the environment by not following acceptable camping practices. They just typically do not know what those practices are.


Fouled Water

Homeless encampments harm the environment through their impact on water. This was references above in regard to human waste and other biohazardous materials harming the environment, including the water. Contaminants are added into water through storm water drainage systems and directly into natural bodies of water like rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.

Damaged Wilderness Areas and Parks

On a more general basis, homeless encampments cause broad damage to wilderness areas and parks. These encampments destroy vegetation. In addition, and has been said more than once – and bears repeating multiple times – the actions of people in homeless encampments result in contamination of the areas in which they occupy. This includes causing significant damage to wilderness areas and parks.

In some instances, the level of damage to these areas can take a considerable amount of time to remediate. Indeed, depending on the nature of the damage to wilderness areas and parks, restoration can end up taking years.