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From the L.A. Times comes this disturbing report about the city of Los Angeles’ apparent plan to keep homeless people homeless:

Escalating their battle to stamp out an unprecedented spread of street encampments, city officials have begun seizing tiny houses from homeless people in South Los Angeles.

Elvis Summers, who built and donated the structures, removed seven of the gaily painted wooden houses — which come with solar-powered lights and American flags — on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of a scheduled city sweep.

Summers, an L.A. resident who says he was once homeless, had placed them within encampments on overpasses along the 110 Freeway, for homeless people to use instead of tents.

But three structures impounded earlier this month remain in a city storage lot, a Bureau of Sanitation spokeswoman said, and the city notified occupants they would be “discarded.”

How is the confiscation legal? In an effort to deal with its large homeless population—which is almost certainly connected to the high cost of real estate exacerbated by L.A.’s terrible rent control policies—the city recently “passed a tough new sweeps ordinance that identified tiny houses as ‘bulky items’ subject to immediate confiscation.”

Unfortunately, L.A. isn’t the only city to confiscate tiny houses from the homeless. Denver did the same thing this past fall, sending in a SWAT team to tear through a tiny house settlement, allegedly smashing the volunteer-built shelters in the process.

As I’ve noted before at Rare, other municipalities take similarly draconian approaches to dealing with the homeless:

— Pensacola, FL at one point banned homeless people from using blankets or any other sleeping materials. (Mercifully, the outrage over this ordinance led to its repeal.)

— In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned food donations to homeless shelters, “because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content.” I’m sure the homeless are very grateful that they were saved from a too-salty dinner.

— And Osceola County, FL spent more than $5 million to jail just 37 homeless people for victimless “crimes” like sleeping in public. For that kind of cash, they could have purchased each homeless person a $135,000 house with no mortgage!

Many cities also make life difficult for those who try to help the homeless survive and get back on their feet:

— In Orlando, FL, charity workers were actually arrested for feeding the homeless.

— A 70-year-old Christian charity in Seattle was told they would no longer be allowed to serve meals to the homeless in the local park.

— In 2012, Philadelphia banned all outdoor feeding of the homeless.

— Las Vegas was ahead of the game with a ban on feeding the homeless in parks in 2006.

— Other cities, like Houston, enact onerous permitting laws which ban feeding the homeless in practice, if not in writing.

All in all, more than 50 major cities have enacted some variation of a ban on public feeding of the homeless in recent years.

“These people are beaten down so hard, you give them any opportunity to be normal, it lifts them up,” said Summers, the tiny house builder in L.A.

Local governments should get out of the way and let that happen.

Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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