Los Angeles officials are taking the problem of homelessness very seriously, declaring a state of emergency and allocating $100 million to house people responsibly. With over 25,000 people on the streets, according to a January census, 5,000 of whom are concentrated in the city’s notorious Skid Row, the problem has gone from crisis to dire emergency.
Mayor Eric Garcetti outlines his plans for the emergency funds: $5 million for short term (6-9 month) rental subsidies to help people get back on their feet, $5.1 million specifically for veteran short-term housing, $1 million to establish centers where homeless people can get everyday services, such as taking a shower, storing belongings, and doing laundry, $1 million in technology improvements for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority so they can do less computer work and more outreach, and $665,000 toward keeping winter shelters open two months longer and 24/7 in anticipation of El Niño conditions.
The City Council’s long-term funds will begin in January. Garretti expresses his hope the emergency funds will help house at least 1,000 people, while the full $100 million could help as many as 10,000 over the years. To penny-pinching critics, he says, “I mean, we spend as much as $100 million on homelessness right now reacting to it, $80 million, for instance, just in the policing costs alone. It’s been very pennywise pound foolish.”
The officials proposing the injection of funds say the city’s record of pushing homeless populations from one neighborhood to another is a waste of time and money, and ignores the humanity and needs of the individuals. “For too long, our strategies have been dictated by the latest lawsuit. For too long, we’ve had a containment policy. Out of sight, out of mind,” said Council member Jose Huizar. “This approach to homelessness has failed. We can’t ignore the problem, and we can’t arrest our way out of it.” Los Angeles is gearing up to make lasting changes for those living without homes, and it seems it’s about time.