Thursday, December 26, 2013

L.A. County restricts homeless peoples' access to Union Station

Homeless-feetHomeless people are no longer welcome in Los Angeles’ Union Station, according to this article in The Los Angeles Times. More than one hundred homeless people had previously used the station each night, but Los Angeles County’s new policy restricts access to ticketed passengers only--ostensibly because of concerns over safety and public health. As The Times reports:

Last summer, an average of 135 homeless people a night were gathering inside the terminal, commandeering bathrooms, sprawling across seats and intimidating customers with aggressive panhandling, MTA officials said.


"We were getting a lot of complaints. Our clientele isn't particularly well-heeled," said Ken Pratt, director of Los Angeles Union Station Property Management for the MTA. "They were being prevented from using the terminal."


The move comes as the agency has embarked on a major renovation of the station. Some downtown residents say the seat closure is pushing people with nowhere else to go out into the cold.


"It seems really unfair that they're not allowed to come in to get warm," said Clare Holzer, an artist who lives in downtown's historic core.

The new policy highlights the difficult considerations that affect public policy decisions relating to the issue of homelessness, and it raises questions as to the rights of homeless people to occupy public places. 

In 2012, Democratic Rep. Tom Ammiano introduced into the California General Assembly a Homeless Bill of Rights (A.B. 5). Among other things, the bill would preserve the rights of homeless people to use public spaces; it would ensure their right to legal counsel; and, it would protect employees who assist them from retaliation from their employers. It also would provide civil remedies for violation of the act.

Although it passed the Judiciary Committee last April, the Committee on Appropriations has yet to act upon it. It is expected to come up in January 2014.

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