California voters face a specter of a homeless encampment at a day care center

Why L.A.’s ban on homeless encampments near schools, day care has become heated election issue

The encampment at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 4. (Photo: John Alcorn/Associated Press)

Updated Oct. 3 at 6:03 p.m.

With the presidential election a little more than a week away, California voters have been confronted with the specter of a homeless encampment at a day care center that has recently been the target of protests.

The battle is emblematic of a broader electoral landscape, in which Republicans in Congress, the White House and statehouses across the country seem to have an abiding concern for the homeless and are pushing a broad range of policies to improve their lives.

“The issue has been on the map for a while,” said Democratic consultant Mike Madrid, the author of a recent report on California homelessness. “There’s an increasing number of homeless people in the United States today, and it’s the most visible of the homeless problems.”

Despite the political divide and what some would call an “end justifies the means” mentality, California’s new governor, Jerry Brown, has been a steadfast critic of the encampment at the Los Angeles County Public Health and Human Services Center, which has housed and treated thousands of homeless residents since spring of 2017. The center’s presence there has drawn criticism from those who believe the policy has created a public safety crisis at the facility, forcing them to shelter people they may not be able to accommodate elsewhere.

“It certainly was something that was on the radar screen,” said a Democratic consultant who asked not to be named. “I can imagine the conversation for many voters. I can’t imagine how it was for most voters.”

The center, which is operated by a non-profit, has received intense scrutiny from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which has organized several large protests near the shelter in recent weeks.

The union’s president, Tony Reardon, who said his group is focused on ensuring workers’

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