The county's anti-camping ordinance is not the houselessness solution our communities need.
The Kern Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on an anti-camping ordinance, which will be paid for with American Rescue Plan funding. These funds are intended to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. COVID impacted our communities in many ways, including loss of jobs, income, access to health care and housing. Instead of the ARPA funding going to permanent solutions to those issues, the funds are being used to pay for an ordinance that will displace and criminalize unhoused people.
The displacement of unhoused people goes against CDC guidance, which recommends not dispersing encampments during a pandemic and instead that “jurisdictions work together with other community organizations and offices to improve sanitation in encampments.” Not only does this ordinance go against CDC guidance, but if the county wants to protect public health, it should invest in sanitation services and resources as well as permanent housing, and not code enforcement officers.
The ordinance also includes police presence in houselessness outreach, which will lead to the further criminalization of poverty. A study by the Alliance for Community Transit-L.A. showed that threat of enforcement interferes with establishment of trust and provision of services to unhoused people and that civilian-only outreach is more effective. Additionally, putting armed police in situations where they are interacting with unhoused people with mental disabilities escalates situations and can result in deadly violence and liability for law enforcement agencies, as we have seen in Los Angeles and Orange County.
— Maira Rios, Bakersfield