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Homelessness and Law

In California, many cities have enacted several laws to discourage camping and homeless-related activities, but there are no laws that specifically bans or restricts homelessness. Prior to the Boise decision, like many cities, Arcadia enforced its anti-camping laws and would encourage individuals experiencing homelessness to seek shelter elsewhere, but it was not a sufficient deterrent to stop all camping in public places. While being homeless is not a crime, the Arcadia Police Department will take enforcement actions wherever it is appropriate. The City upholds its laws and ordinances with all residents, including the homeless. Below is some additional information regarding homelessness and the law.

Martin v. Boise

The Martin v. Boise case challenged the City of Boise’s (Idaho) enforcement of its Camping and Disorderly Conduct Ordinances against persons experiencing homelessness—those who need to sleep in public in the absence of adequate housing or shelter.  In 2018, a panel of the 9th Circuit held that “as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.” Following that ruling, the City of Boise petitioned the entire 9th Circuit to rehear the case (“en banc”)which was rejected. Boise then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and in 2019, the Court rejected that request, thereby affirming that within the 9th Circuit, “the Eighth Amendment preclude[s] the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter.” To read the full decision, please click on the link below:

Martin v. Boise Decision - Ninth Circuit

City of Arcadia Anti-Camping Ordinance

In 2021, the City of Arcadia updated its Anti-Camping Ordinance to align with the Boise decision, and to include restrictions on the time, manner, and place camping on public property is permitted. Ordinance No. 2374 updated existing regulations in an effort to further define criteria surrounding lawful and unlawful camping. Under the Ordinance, camping on public property is always prohibited between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and public and pedestrian access cannot be obstructed in any manner.  The Ordinance also lists those areas within the City where camping is prohibited at all times, including but not limited to City benches, freeway on/off-ramps, park playgrounds, public facilities, commercial districts, and wildfire high-risk areas, among others. Please click on the links below to read the City's staff report, Ordinance No. 2374, and to view the City's Anti-Camping Enforcement Area Map.

Staff Report 
Ordinance No. 2374
Anti-Camping Enforcement Area Map

Lanterman-Petris Short Act (LPSA)

Many individuals experiencing homelessness suffer from inadequate mental health treatment. Over the ensuing decades, the laws regarding mental health treatment have changed and none were more significant than in 1967 when California passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPSA) which sought to, “end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of persons with mental health disorders.” It also established a right to prompt psychiatric evaluation and treatment, and imposed specific timeframes on involuntary confinement and limited involuntary holds (typically no more than 72 hours) to those deemed a danger to themselves or others. This law effectively ended all hospital commitments by the judiciary system. Click on the link below to read the entire LPSA. 

Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPSA)

Criminal Justice Reform and Homelessness 

Beginning in 2014, California voters and the State legislature enacted a series of criminal justice reforms through AB 109, Prop 47, and Prop 57, which has placed limitations on law enforcement's ability to respond to increases in criminal activity. In summary: 

  • AB 109 transferred the responsibility of housing certain criminals from State prison to County jail facilities; however, local jail facilities were already full, which resulted in the early release of about 45,000 low-level criminals to relieve prison overcrowding. 
  • Prop 47 was approved by 60 percent of voters which changed crimes like shoplifting, theft, or forgery and possession of illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, from felony offenses to misdemeanor offenses. 
  • Prop 57 allowed the State complete authority to release up to 30,000 inmates from State prisons back into our communities. 
Furthermore, the Los Angeles County District Attorney Office has issued new policy directives which endanger public safety, including policies not to prosecute misdemeanor crimes.
While the changes to State law and policy decisions to not prosecute offenses are being made at the County level, it has been and will continue to be the practice of the Arcadia Police Department to enforce all laws in the City. This includes crimes committed by individuals experiencing homelessness like theft, assault, drug possession, and other offenses.  

If a crime has been committed in the City of Arcadia, regardless of whether the District Attorney’s Office chooses to prosecute, the individual will be cited and/or arrested by the Arcadia Police Department. 

Additional Resources

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
California Department of Social Services 
National Homelessness Law Center
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Published: July 27, 2021