Frequently Asked Questions on Homelessness

Is homelessness a crime? No, homelessness is not a crime, but a condition arising from an unfortunate set of circumstances that can affect anyone. 
What is the City doing to prevent homelessness? The City allocates more than $37,000 per year from federal grants to assist with homeless prevention and assistance services to organizations such as Families Forward, South County Outreach, and Family Assistance Ministries.
Are homeless encampments illegal on public property? There are ordinances in place that prevent camping in public spaces, however, there was a recent federal court ruling that affects the City's ability to enforce the ordinances. The City recently updated its municipal code to be consistent with the court ruling.
Does the Sheriff’s Department enforce laws on private property? Yes, private property managers must post signs citing the City’s municipal code and provide a person to act as the designated agent to enforce the Trespass Ordinance on private property.  
Can the police do something about the homeless? The City has a full time Homeless Liaison Officer (“HLO”). The HLO works with the City’s nonprofit homeless outreach provider (Mercy House) to establish trust and communication with the homeless in an effort to offer supportive services. Whenever necessary, the HLO issues citations and makes arrests.   
Why isn't the City enforcing the laws against camping? A federal court ruling prohibits cities from enforcing anti-camping and similar ordinances unless the City has provided alternative shelter; the ruling is legally binding in all seven states throughout the 9th District. Currently, the City does not have alternative shelter to accommodate everyone experiencing homelessness within Lake Forest.
What should I do if I witness a crime occurring? If you witness a crime, please report it to the Sheriff’s Department by contacting 770-6011 and a Deputy will respond.
Is there a program in place to help address homelessness in Lake Forest? The City contracts with Mercy House to provide an outreach worker in Lake Forest. The outreach worker helps the homeless get into shelters, secure transitional or permanent housing, obtain medical assistance, or be admitted into a recovery program.  
Should I provide food, clothing, or money to a homeless person I see on the street? The City’s non-profit partners offer food, clothing, housing, and other supportive services. Therefore, those that wish to receive services also receive support from these organizations. If you wish to help, you may consider donating to the nonprofit organizations working with the City.
Who can I contact if I have more questions regarding homelessness? If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Sr. Management Analyst Sharlyn de la Paz at