On Thursday, the city and county of Los Angeles Agreed to provide shelter for around 7,000 homeless people who live near freeways by the end of 2021.
7,000 more sheltered homeless by 2022
In May, U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter had issued an injunction on behalf of the LA Alliance for Human Rights ordering that homeless people living within 500 feet of freeways, including underpasses, had to be relocated by September. The reasoning behind the decision was that, because homeless generally lived close by each other, they posed a major coronavirus risk, as well as a risk to traffic within the area and being susceptible to pollution due to the nearby exhaust from cars.
With LA’s announcement on Thursday, Judge Carter has dropped the injunction.
While Los Angeles will not be adherent to the September deadline, city and county officials have promised 6,000 new beds by April 2021 with 700 more by December of 2021, with $300 million being spent over 5 years for homeless services.
“The court has challenged us to do better, to do more and to do it quickly, and we need to meet that challenge,” said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez. “We are now positioned to dive into difficult but honest conversations with our county partners about future financial resources and obligations. This agreement will lead to major action, not rhetoric.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti also approved of the move.
“Homelessness is the humanitarian crisis of our time,” stated Mayor Eric Garcetti in a press release. “Through this agreement, we will bring thousands more Angelenos indoors, deliver the services they need right now and further limit the spread of COVID-19.”
The LA Alliance for Human Rights, who is currently trying to push the court to provide beds for all 66,000 homeless people in the county in another lawsuit, approved the move as well.
“This is a significant step forward. But it’s not clear what it’s going to look like, where all these beds are going to end up,” added Daniel Conway, policy adviser for the LA Alliance group. “They’re going to have to get creative.”
While the city and county are currently looking at ways to address the housing, including inexpensive tents, 3D printed homes, reclaimed hotels and other structures, with city-owned land around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) being specifically named as possible sites, a backlash against the ruling and additional shelter space has already sprung up in Los Angeles.
Push back against the ruling
Erica Taylor-Winfield, who has helped with multiple campaigns to not approve more homeless funding in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, noted that the city doesn’t have that many options and that it is a burden to taxpayers.
“Spending on homeless services has gotten ridiculous,” argued Taylor-Winfield. “We had to fight against many levies and tax hikes, like Measure HHH, to not subsidize drug use or house criminals.”
“And we’re running out of places to put them. Most cities around LA have put efforts to stop the homeless from going there. So the city carries this burden to put 60,000 people, more really, into free housing. And it’s costing an arm and a leg. We shouldn’t have to pay for their mistakes, but we are. Many homeless don’t even want to be put into shelters.”
“The city may put up the beds and clear them away from highways, but how soon will it be before they move back there? That’s my concern. If we keep those areas free of homeless so they don’t panhandle, it will be a silver-lining to all of this, and in that case the county has to follow through, or those shelters will be a complete waste.”
The ruling on the second lawsuit to house the remaining homeless population in LA County is expected later this year.