With an area covering roughly 50 city blocks, Skid Row is the home to more than 8,000 individuals, according to the Los Angeles city Community Redevelopment Agency. Alongside every person comes belongings; anywhere from toiletries and blankets to weapons and drug paraphernalia.
Such possessions are notorious for lining the sidewalks making it difficult for passers-by to steer through. Though the items may pose as having personal significance to the owner, at what point does the city of Los Angeles have the power to intervene, if any?
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, a decision last September by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that personal belongings the homeless leave behind on city sidewalks can only be seized under narrow circumstances: If they pose an immediate threat to public health and safety or represent evidence of a crime. The court went on to include that the city does not have the right to destroy possessions that are taken and must inform the owner of where they can go to retrieve their items.
However, the city of Los Angeles argues that circumstances must also coincide with the city’s efforts to clean the overpopulated streets. City workers posted approximately 73 signs throughout the Skid Row area informing homeless residents that a street clean up would be in full effect Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. and that property left behind that wasn’t considered to be hazardous would be bagged, labeled and stored for 90 days.
To the city’s dismay, a surplus of belongings are left behind day after day, forcing the workers to sort through items that could pose as hazardous health and safety situations.
Malicious intentions are not at the forefront of the city’s efforts to keep the streets safe and clean. They are merely asking for backing from the court system if homeless residents do not comply with the simple request.
Considering that the city is providing prior notification of the specified clean up days, along with a location to store personal belongings during the duration of the project, homeless residents should be more cooperative with the effort. For those who still refuse to comply with the project, there is still the option of retrieving items up to 90 days later.
What more could be asked of the city to address the problem?
As car owners, we are asked to obey rules and regulations, one of which includes not parking in certain locations when the street sweeper is scheduled to make its rounds. If you do not comply with the signs that are posted up and down the street, you are given a ticket along with a fine (that inevitably cuts back on your frequent trips to Starbucks for a couple of weeks).
Your car is not removed and placed in a location where you can claim it, free of charge, up to 90 days later.
Instead, you are charged a hefty amount along with plenty of other administrative fees if your car is towed. Homeless residents are residents all in the same, like you and I. If we have to comply with laws that we find inconvenient and absurd, then so should they.
Los Angeles is not asking for the impossible. Their request is completely feasible and, in the end, benefits every party involved.
This situation is not nearly as complicated as many are making it out to be. It comes down the mere fact that without rule and a sense of order, madness will prevail. The cluttered sidewalks of those 50 city blocks force people to step in the street to walk from one location to the next to avoid the refuse.
How long before that stretch becomes 100?