Victorville, CALIF. – (VVNG.com) – In a move to tackle the issue of homelessness and prioritize public safety, the City of Victorville has recently adopted a new ordinance.
Ordinance No. 2445, which amends the Victorville Municipal Code (VMC), received approval during a Council Meeting held on November 7th.
The primary aim of the newly approved ordinance is to combat unauthorized camping and address the storage of personal property in public areas.
By refining anti-camping enforcement protocols and encouraging unhoused individuals to accept shelter and services, the City intends to reduce homelessness and improve public safety within its borders.
However, the ordinance’s approval was not without controversy, as council members held mixed opinions on the matter.
Council member Blanca Gomez raised concerns about potential infringements on individual choices made on public land, particularly among voiceless or mentally ill individuals.
On the other hand, Mayor Debra Jones emphasized the city’s commitment to both caring for the homeless population and maintaining a compassionate balance with the rest of the community.
The decision to implement this ordinance comes in response to various factors.
In 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Martin v. City of Boise established that it is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment to criminalize sleeping on public property when alternative shelter is unavailable.
This legal precedent places a significant responsibility on cities to ensure access to temporary or permanent shelter before resorting to criminal enforcement.
Additionally, the recent case of Johnson v. City of Grants Pass highlighted limitations on the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances.
The court ruled that even administrative enforcement actions can violate the Eighth Amendment if they lead to criminal prosecution when no shelter is reasonably available. It concluded that an ordinance permitting sleeping on public property but banning the use of bedding is effectively equivalent to a sleeping ban.
The City of Victorville has been taking proactive steps to address homelessness through various initiatives. These include providing affordable housing through the Hillcrest Court Apartments and collaborating with the Housing Authority of San Bernardino County to transform a derelict motel into permanent housing for the homeless.
To facilitate comprehensive solutions, the city established a Homelessness Solutions Task Force and engaged with external stakeholders to develop a strategic action plan. Undoubtedly, Victorville authorities recognize the pressing issue of homelessness and its impact on the community.
Despite these ongoing efforts, recent point-in-time counts have revealed an increase in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Victorville.
The City’s Homeless Engagement Team has also encountered challenges when individuals refuse shelter, indicating the persistence of underlying obstacles.
Encampments in public areas present significant health and safety risks, ranging from unsanitary conditions leading to diseases, fire hazards, potential drownings, water pollution, accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles, drug exposure, and overdose risks.
Furthermore, unregulated camping hampers emergency response efforts, endangering the well-being of both the unhoused population and the general public, city officials highlighted.
In light of these concerns and to maintain public order, the newly approved ordinance establishes clear enforcement procedures and identifies specific public areas where camping and encampments are strictly prohibited.
It also outlines a fair process for handling personal property found in encampments to ensure respect and consideration for individuals’ belongings.
By adopting this ordinance, the City of Victorville says this reaffirms its commitment to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness.
The city has implemented outreach programs, fostered partnerships with shelter providers, and created low-barrier interim shelters. Construction is also underway for a 4.5-acre Wellness Center facility that will offer comprehensive services to those in need.
The City Council’s approval of this motion during the recent Council Meeting signifies the official endorsement of the new ordinance.
Mayor Debra Jones, Mayor Pro Tem Liz Becerra, and council member Robert Harriman all voted in favor, while Council Member Blanca Gomez expressed dissent. Council Member Leslie Irving was absent from the meeting.
To follow updates to this article and more, join our newsgroup on Facebook with over 165,000 members. Like our Facebook page, and Follow us on Instagram and Twitter.