The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to develop an “emergency” plan aimed at immediately sheltering all of the city’s homeless individuals who are still living out in the open, including those in tents, mobile homes and on sidewalks.
At last count, more than 25,000 of the city’s 34,000 homeless individuals are unsheltered.
The effort comes as the council this week also pledged to build 222 units of permanent housing for homeless individuals in each of the city’s 15 council districts by 2020.
But while that happens, city leaders say temporary shelters are also needed to more quickly put roofs over people’s heads. And they want to do it by the end of the year.
The council approved a motion Friday requesting that the countywide Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority develop a “framework of an Emergency Response to Homelessness Plan, outlining what steps and what funds would be required to provide an alternative to encampments for 100 percent of the Los Angeles homeless population by December 31, 2018.”
“Los Angeles must provide genuine alternatives to sidewalk encampments — urgently,” the authors of the motion wrote.
They argued that the response to Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis should be similar to what is routinely done when a natural disaster occurs, pointing to the shelters offered to residents who were displaced by recent wildfires.
“Victims of natural disasters are not left to sleep under tents and cardboard on our streets, but refugees from economic hardship, gentrification, a housing shortage, domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction and mental illness are left to fend for themselves in the elements,” they wrote. “That is unacceptable and intolerable.”
The motion also calls on city staffers to bring back a “comprehensive list of every public facility in the city of Los Angeles legally eligible to be used to provide shelter, temporary housing, or safe parking.”
The council called for the reports to be brought back to them within 14 days.
The move also comes as city leaders have been under pressure to provide more immediate shelter and assistance to the homeless, who are frequently uprooted and shifted around the city as a result of growing requests by some residents demanding that the encampments be cleared away by sanitation officials.
Advocates for the homeless complain that even as the cleanups occur, there are no shelters for those living in the encampments to go to, especially in the San Fernando Valley and other areas where the crisis has spread to in recent years.
And while there has been slow progress in building shelters and other facilities, often for fear that there would be community opposition, city leaders have consistently ramped up funding for encampment cleanups.
The council this week approved an additional $669,483 on top of this year’s existing $13.7 million, to immediately pay for overtime hours for Clean Streets LA crews and add staff to one HOPE team, which is tasked with carrying out enforcement the city’s 56.11 law that prohibits storage of property in public places. A similar funding increase was made the previous year, when the sanitation department said they had run out of funding to clean up encampments well before the year was over.
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