Homeless encampments are found throughout the city and county of Los Angeles. They can be found from downtown Los Angeles to a multitude of suburban neighborhoods in the greater LA area.
The City of Los Angeles has been embroiled in debates and negotiations with citizens from across the community as well as with advocates for homeless people. The debate centers on what should and should not be done with homeless encampments in LA.
In 2015, there was a movement among city officials to take steps to eradicate homeless encampments all together. Within a year, this position was pushed back to one in which LA public works crews spend a considerable amount of time cleaning up, but not eradicating, homeless encampments.
Throughout this period of time, many people have considered the impact of homeless encampments on the community at large. Indeed, when it comes to making decisions about what should and should not be done in regard to homeless encampments, it is necessary to fully understand the impact they have on the larger community.
Criminal Activity Associated with Homeless Encampments
No matter the spin advocates for the homeless population put on the subject, numerous credible research studies have established a strong, direct relationship between chronic homelessness and certain types of criminality. With that said, it is important to note that the typical chronically homeless individual is not a hardened or violent felon. Yes, there is a significant amount of criminality among homeless people, including those in encampments. But, this criminality more often than not includes less serious crimes like:
- Petty theft
- Public intoxication
- Street peddling
- Public urination
- Public excretion
Understanding this generalization, the longer a person remains situated in a homeless encampment, the more likely he or she is to become more heavily involved in lesser crimes (like those mentioned a moment ago). Public intoxication, public urination, panhandling, and trespassing all negatively impacts the neighborhood or zone around a homeless encampment. Although these crimes are not serious in the grand scheme of criminality, they do have a significant impact on the larger community.
In addition to these crimes, illicit drug usage usually is a significant issue in many homeless encampments. As a result, drug dealing oftentimes becomes a highly serious problem around homeless encampments.
Because of the drug usage in encampments, drug dealers end up in the zone where these camps exist. The presence of these oftentimes violent individuals renders the surrounding neighborhood more dangerous than would otherwise be the case.
Threats to Business Viability
Homeless encampments have a direct and negative impact on business viability. The conduct engaged in by some people in homeless encampments is undesirable when engaged in near businesses.
Things like public urination, panhandling, and public intoxication interfere with the ability of a business to serve the needs of its customers or clients. When this type of activity occurs at the location of businesses, members of the community will cease to patronize those enterprises.
Entertainment districts in cities are particularly vulnerable to the negative aspects of homeless encampments. Entertainment districts bring people with disposable income, which are targeted by people from homeless encampments. In addition, this type of district has laxer rules regarding street behavior as a result of what people are doing who patronize businesses in the area.
Preventing Others from Using Public Spaces
Another negative fallout associated homeless encampments is transients in these encampments tend to dominate public spaces in the zone of these camps. In some cases, these encampments spring up in public spaces.
When this type of situation arises, other citizens of a community are driven from these public areas. They are not able to take advantage of these public spaces because these areas are being dominated by homeless individuals from encampments.
Cost to the Community at Large
A major way in which homeless encampments impact the community at large is in the form of cost to the city and its citizens. For example, homeless encampments are the scene of a disproportionate amount of calls to law enforcement.
In addition, because of the lack of sanitation and associated issues in homeless encampments, people who live in these camps have a higher level of health issues. The costs associated with addressing these health issues are borne by taxpayers. In addition, there is always the risk that illnesses found in a homeless encampment will spread to the broader community at large.