Los Angeles’s New Plan to House the Homeless

For California communities struggling with homelessness, the challenge has been to reconcile two demands: Moving encampments of people off sidewalks and into shelters, while dealing with neighborhood opposition that, to name one example, blocked Orange County’s attempt to build homeless camps.

There are few places where the crisis is as severe as it is in Los Angeles, where 25,000 people are living on the streets. Mayor Eric M. Garcetti on Monday will announce an aggressive $20 million program to work around neighborhood opposition and potentially build temporary 100-bed shelters on city-owned land in all 15 City Council districts.

To help speed the opening of the 1,500 beds, the plan includes an emergency declaration that would in effect override existing zoning, building and fire code provisions.

This measure comes as Mr. Garcetti, who is exploring a potential presidential bid in 2020 and was in Iowa this weekend, has come under criticism for the rise in homelessness.

The calculation is that as people confront growing encampments lining sidewalks from downtown Los Angeles to Venice their attitudes toward homelessness are changing.

Peter Lynn, the executive director of the Homeless Services Authority, said temporary beds provided a bridge for people to find permanent housing — either on their own or in housing Los Angeles is building with $1.2 billion authorized by voters in 2016. “The objective is not to shelter everybody, and that’s O.K.,” he said. “It’s not as if we have infinite resources.”

A district is not obligated to build a shelter, and could forfeit its money, though officials argued that was unlikely given the pervasiveness of the problem.

“We have no intention to force projects on any district,” said Matt Szabo, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff. “We are confident that there is sufficient consensus that we need these projects that you will see a lot of progress really quickly.”

Under the plan, city crews will clean up encampments after their occupants have moved to the temporary shelters.

“We’re not trying to say this will take care of the entire homeless population,” said Suzi Emmerling, the mayor’s director of communications. “But we do believe it will make a significant dent.”

Article Date: 
Monday, April 16, 2018