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The Worst Part of LA’s A Bridge Home Program Could Be Coming Back

Joe Buscaino wants to bring back LAPD-enforced Special Enforcement and Cleaning Zones in the midst of a pandemic.

The dark side of Los Angeles’s A Bridge Home program, which provides temporary shelter for an increasing number of unhoused Angelenos, are the Special Enforcement and Cleaning Zones (SECZs) connected with the sites. Unhoused residents living within these Zones face daily sweeps and armed and destructive policing. SECZs place all unhoused residents within a given perimeter at the whims of LAPD under the theory that they could just stay in the nearby shelters.

Photo: Alex McElvain for KNOCK.LA

The reality is that the ABH shelters are insufficient to meet the needs of the city’s unhoused residents. There are currently around 1,000 shelter beds for more than 40,000 unhoused Angelenos. This means SECZs end up being less about “cleaning up” people who are unwilling to be sheltered, and more of an excuse to criminalize unhoused people who don’t realistically have meaningful access to Bridge Home sites.

This policing is also counterproductive. The A Bridge Home program is meant to help unhoused Angelenos connect with permanent housing, but the impact of LAPD on unhoused residents outside these shelters can set them back months on their paths towards permanent housing through the destruction of ID, the trauma of interaction with LAPD, and their displacement leading to losing contact with case workers.

These SECZs are also another big-ticket line item that goes to LAPD. They divert $8.4 million annually, money that should be used to help house and provide services for our unhoused neighbors, to police overtime.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these SECZs have not been enforced. This has been a welcome and necessary respite for those forced to shelter in place in LA without a home. Unfortunately, with City Council coming back from recess, ex-cop and current Councilmember Joe Buscaino is trying to bring back the enforcement of these Zones. Buscaino is doing this even though the pandemic has never been worse in the City of Los Angeles, and the fiscal situation makes paying for this policing a burden the city’s budget cannot bear. And that’s before you address the fundamental problems this program had pre-pandemic. This is a bad program, and with more of these shelters opening and the pandemic raging, this is a terrible moment to bring enforcement back.

Buscaino’s motion will be up for consideration at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, at 10am. It will be agenda item 46 if you are interested in giving public comment, or you can leave a comment on the City Clerk’s website for the council file. This is an opportunity for LA to choose not to revert to its broken status quo of policing and mistreating the unhoused population. Do not let an ex-cop’s penchant for criminalization set LA back on the wrong path.

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