As the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County continues to rise, the City Council is weighing a ban on feeding homeless people in public areas.
City Council members Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell, both Democrats, introduced the resolution after complaints from Los Angeles residents. Arguing that meal lines should be moved indoors, the legislators said the proposal would benefit both the homeless and residential neighborhoods.
But advocates for the homeless say public officials are attempting to legislate the poor into invisibility instead of helping those in need.
"It’s a common but misguided tactic to drive homeless people out of downtown areas," Jerry Jones, the executive director of the National Coalition of the Homeless, said to The New York Times.
"This is an attempt to make difficult problems disappear," said Jones. "It’s both callous and ineffective."
While homelessness in the U.S. has dropped for the fourth straight year, falling 4% in the past year, some cities, including Los Angeles, have seen a spike in homelessness. The homeless population in Los Angeles is the second highest in the country, following New York City. Los Angeles County’s homeless population rose 15% from 2011 to 2013, to nearly 53,800 individuals, according to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development released last week.
Los Angeles would join “dozens of cities in recent years” including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., and Orlando, Fla. that have either enacted or at least debated legislation aimed at regulating the public feeding of the homeless. Over 50 cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.