A Los Angeles Times report earlier this week showed a 31 percent increase in homeless arrests around the city, despite an overall drop in arrests in L.A. since 2011. The main reason was failure to pay off a ticket and appear in court. The tickets had been given out for a variety of infractions.
"The top one that we saw in our reporting was lying, sleeping or resting on the sidewalk, which is pretty much [an] offense that is only committed by homeless people," said L.A. Times reporter Gale Holland. "At other times, they have ticketed people for jaywalking, throwing a cigarette butt in the street or public urination."
Holland noted that a majority of homeless people do not have the resources to pay for such citations, or even appear in court to fight them.
One approach the city has taken to try and manage this revolving door of homeless debt and arrests in L.A. is something called a "citation clinic."
"These clinics are really quite extraordinary," said City Attorney Mike Feuer. "We say to a homeless person who might have an outstanding citation that is impeding him or her from getting a job, or accessing basic services, that we will help you eradicate those fines and citations in exchange for you performing a community obligation at a location where a service provider can lift you out of homelessness."
In two-and-a-half years, Feuer said the clinics have helped more than 2,000 people, but more still needs to be done.