The Homeless in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has the highest rate of homelessness in the U.S. according to the Department of Housing and Development. Yesterday (April 20) the Mayor unveiled his plan for confronting this issue as reported in this article by Alejandro Lazo in the LATimes:

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 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday proposed spending $138 million to address the burgeoning homeless population in a region that has seen a bigger increase in people without a place to live than any major urban center.

Mr. Garcetti’s planned spending on services and housing for the homeless in the fiscal year beginning July 1—four times what was allocated for the current fiscal year—comes after city officials faced criticism for a slow response to the problem.

The new budget proposal is only partly funded from current tax revenue; some of the money would come from a real-estate development fee that doesn’t yet exist.

Nationally, the homeless population fell 2% in 2015 from a year earlier. But in Los Angeles County, which includes the city and communities such as Long Beach, Burbank and Pasadena, the number of homeless leapt to 41,000 in 2015, a 20% increase over the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. California accounts for more than a quarter of the nation’s homeless population.

Los Angeles leaders have struggled to address the problem as people were driven from their homes during the last recession and housing costs have climbed.

The city has fought in court with homeless advocates over its treatment of the homeless. Earlier this month, the mayor signed an ordinance limiting the amount of property people can store on the streets to 60 gallons. Last week, a federal judge said the city cannot remove and destroy all the belongings of homeless people, such as medications.

“It is promising that the mayor has decided to invest substantially into addressing homelessness in Los Angeles. However, I do, as always, think the devil is in the details,” said Eric Ares, a community organizer for Community Action Network, which advocates for affordable housing. The city “has been using law enforcement and criminalization to address the failure of a real housing plan.”

With large encampments appearing in new parts of the city, Mr. Garcetti and other politicians publicly proclaimed a homeless emergency last year, but stopped short of declaring an official state of emergency, similar to ones invoked during natural disasters. City officials had pledged $100 million for the effort, but for months struggled to identify where that money would come from.

Separately, Los Angeles County officials last week proposed spending $99 million on homeless programs for the next fiscal year.

“People want this problem solved,” Mr. Garcetti said in an interview. “I am optimistic that we are on the right road.”

He said he was “close to 100%” sure his proposal would be approved by the City Council, which is charged with passing a budget by June 1.

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said the mayor’s approach was “welcomed.”

Mr. Garcetti’s plan relies on $67 million not derived from current tax revenue. That includes 12 city properties worth $47 million that can be sold or developed into housing. Another $20 million would come from a program that hasn’t yet been enacted: a fee on developers the city would use to provide affordable housing.

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