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New Curbs on Homeless Supported

September 15, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Fed up with homeless people sprawled in front of Los Angeles public libraries, a City Council committee Tuesday endorsed a proposed law to make it illegal to loiter or sleep on library property between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.

City Librarian Fontayne Holmes said librarians coming to work have been forced to step over unconscious bodies and have encountered human waste.

"It's intimidating to people," she said, adding that the homeless are welcome inside the city's libraries during business hours.

Some homeless advocates called the proposed law counterproductive.

"It's just one more example of being short-sighted, and rather than being proactive in the community in providing safe places for people to sleep, you criminalize the activity," said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness.

If the full council approves the measure, police could arrest, fine and jail those caught sleeping or loitering on library property. Officials stressed that they do not intend to send people to jail, and probably would refer them to shelters.

A city law now prohibits loitering on library property between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. But librarians, particularly in Venice, still face encampments as they come to work, so the extended hours were proposed.

Councilmen Tom La Bonge and Martin Ludlow, backers of the proposal, said they want to work with homeless advocates before the council vote.

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