2020-01-02 — theguardian.com
Communities have largely declined to treat the crisis like a natural disaster that demands humanitarian aid. In many places, what followed instead was a backlash, and in some cases overt attacks.
There were at least eight incidents in LA where people threw flammable liquids or makeshift explosives at homeless people or their tents this year, according to authorities and the Los Angeles Times.
A 62-year-old beloved musician's tent was set on fire in Skid Row in August, killing him in what police say was an intentional killing. That month, two men also allegedly threw a "firework" at an encampment, causing a blaze that grew into a major brush fire just outside of the city. One of the men arrested was the son of a local chamber of commerce president. Police said this fire was intentional. In a separate attack, a molotov cocktail destroyed tents and donations.
This month, in a case closely watched by many west coast cities, the US supreme court dealt a victory to homeless advocates by allowing an existing ruling to stand that states governments cannot ban people from living on the street if they don't offer enough shelter beds.
Officials in Oakland have proposed a new policy to cite homeless people in parks while some have suggested setting up a shelter in a defunct jail. Law enforcement leaders in Bakersfield in the Central Valley pushed a plan to throw homeless people in jail for misdemeanor offenses. A state taskforce has also suggested a similar system of forcibly placing homeless people into shelters.
These efforts ignore the overwhelming evidence that criminalization and locking people up are costly and harmful responses that fail to fix the crisis, said Eve Garrow, homelessness policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"There's a dangerous and disturbing movement in California to address homelessness not by expanding access to safe, affordable and permanent housing ... but by jailing people," she said. "It's a terrifying prospect of a world in which we segregate, incarcerate and restrict the civil liberties of people just because they have disabilities and they are too poor to afford a home in our skyrocketing private rental market."
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