Causes of Homelessness
The causes vary widely, but often homelessness and poverty are linked. Being poor can mean a person is one illness, one accident, or one paycheck away from living on the streets. Top contributors to homelessness also include:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Low wages
- Mental illness and the lack of needed services (Single adult individuals)
- Substance abuse and the lack of needed services (Single adult individuals)
The Growth of Homelessness
National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) cites three top factors that have fueled an increase in homelessness over the past 30 years.
- Housing has become more scarce for those with limited incomes;
- Earnings from employment and benefits have not kept pace with the cost of housing for people with limited incomes;
- Services that every family needs for support and stability have become harder for poor people to access and afford.
Your Questions About the City's Amended Camping Ordinance
What does the ordinance say now?
The amendment now strengthens and expands enforcement citywide by doing the following: (1) distinguishes camping versus sleeping, (2) gives private property owners more control of their property, (3) restricts sleeping to certain hours (between 10 pm and 6 am), (4) prohibits sleeping in open space at all times, (5) prohibits camping throughout the City at all times, and (6) shortens removal time of abandon property from 7 days to 72 hours.
What did the original ordinance cover?
The city has two municipal code sections that were both adopted in 1997. The first, TOMC 5-8.08 regulated the act of camping in public places, including private property open to the public. The second, TOMC 5-8.09 regulated sitting and lying in certain public places, but only in commercial zones in the City. While TOMC 5-8.08 was amended in 2007, TOMC 5-9.09 had never been amended.
What would happen if the City did not adopt the changes to the ordinance?
All cities in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana must comply with the Boise case. That means if a city wants to restrict or regulate sleeping and camping in its city, it must make sure it’s sleeping and camping ordinances comply with the case. Without making changes to our existing ordinances, it would be difficult for the City to successfully enforce the above-mentioned provisions. As a result of these amendments, the City can better regulate the time, place and manner of sleeping within the city, continue to prohibit camping throughout the entire city, and prohibit both camping and sleeping in the open space at all times. Cities that don’t make changes to their ordinances likely cannot prohibit people from sleeping on City property without risking violating this Court ruling.
Why did the City adopt a new ordinance concerning homeless camping and sleeping in the City?
The City’s original ordinance did not distinguish between the acts of camping and sleeping. In September 2018, the case of Martin v. City of Boise was decided which held that the government is prohibited from criminalizing homelessness and that cities must allow individuals to sleep on public property when there is no shelter available to them. In order for the city to regulate camping and sleeping in the City, it was required to change the camping ordinance. This action allows the City to restrict sleeping and camping in the City.
General Homelessness FAQs
Do Police generally arrest people for being homeless?
A: The Thousand Oaks Police Department enforces laws where applicable; however, homelessness in itself is not a crime. In addition, recent court cases have made it more difficult to enforce laws traditionally used in homeless incidents such as living out of a vehicle and illegal camping. In addition, propositions recently approved by California voters have either decriminalized or minimized narcotics offenses. In many cases, where a person would have gone to jail in the past, they are either given a citation or there is simply no violation that exists anymore.
As a community, we will not arrest our way out of this problem. Long term solutions require the cooperation of all stakeholders following a comprehensive plan and the cooperation of citizens to not enable a homeless lifestyle by providing them with short term food and money.
I have seen a homeless encampment. What should I do?
Homeless encampments can cause a variety of problems, especially with trash and sanitation. In many of the locations the city’s landscape workers, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA), Cal-Trans, or Ventura County Public Works, work with the Thousand Oaks Police Department to clean these areas shortly after they are discovered. Homeless individuals are warned to leave, and given a notice to vacate the property, and are provided with information to homeless services available. In some cases, they remain at the camp despite the warning. Those previously warned are cited for illegal camping and the matter is turned over to the Thousand Oaks City Attorney or the District Attorney (depending on the jurisdiction) for processing.
In some cases, encampments are found on private property. See above trespassing question for information.
Isn't homelessness a form of trespassing?
Trespassing laws in California are very complex and often times there is no violation where one would typically think a violation exists. Almost all trespassing laws in California are misdemeanors which typically results in a citation or a very brief stay in jail.
What about littering?
Littering is an infraction which only results in the issuance of a citation. The homeless person you are concerned about may be receiving citations for littering, but with an inability to pay for the citation, and the penalty is minimal.
Why shouldn’t I give money to someone on the street who needs it?
Many times, the money that is given to a panhandling homeless individual can be used to aid addiction, such as drugs or alcohol. It may also provide the short-term relief that keeps people from accepting social service support geared for the long-term.
Money that people give to homeless individuals who panhandle on the street can be better served for the services that provide food, clothing, shelters/housing, or drug/alcohol/mental health rehabilitation. These are all services that people experiencing homelessness can access.
There are a variety of nonprofit organizations that can use your donation to provide services for the homeless, or a worthy charity of your choosing. Some of these organizations can use caring citizens as volunteers as well. Either way, you will make a difference by providing assistance to help move people out of homelessness.
Local Charities Accepting Donations Include: