Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Los Angeles’ $100 Million Promise to Address Homelessness

    Mayor Eric Garcetti is promising to put an end to the chronic homelessness found in Los Angeles. On September 22, 2015 the Los Angeles mayor and city counsel members proposed to declare a ‘state of emergency’ and devote up to $100 million to address homelessness. The mayor took action the day preceding the announcement by issuing a directive to gather $13 million within the next few months to fund stopgap measures such as housing subsidies and funding for extending shelter availability. Budget officials claim over $100 million is already being spent regarding homelessness issues, though the majority is through law enforcement efforts.  

    Despite the strong initiative, counsel members are encountering difficulty identifying sources for the 100 million and no clear plans have been created designating the use for the immense funding. Mayor Garcetti did give a broad over view of his three-part plan to address homelessness. The plan involves expanding the city and county system for tracking homeless individuals, adding centers where the homeless can access social services and store belongings, as well as anti-poverty measures to prevent people from becoming homeless initially. In addition, the Mayor suggested using $12 million from unexpected tax revenue to fund rent subsidies.

    The initiative could ease restrictions on nonprofit organizations and churches that shelter the homeless, as well as create funding for housing and other services. Megan Hustings, the director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, stated creating affordable housing would make a substantial impact towards resolving the homelessness epidemic. Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness echoes the importance of housing stating “what we’ve learned about homelessness over many, many years is that you have to provide housing, and criminalizing the homeless doesn’t keep people off the streets.” Nationally homelessness has declined, however, in areas such as cities where the cost of housing is on the rise, homelessness also increases. Over the past two years the number of homeless individuals increased by 12%. With the rent in Los Angeles soaring across the city, housing vouchers are unable to cover the full cost of a unit. Gentrification of the few areas in Los Angeles with affordable housing eliminated the few units that these individuals possibly could have afforded. Attempts to create new affordable housing struggled and the city itself began to dissolve the funding these efforts to a fourth of the previous funding levels.

    UCLA law professor Gary Blasi notes the proclamation is a positive step for the city, which had previously focused on using the police force to discourage encampments. Shifting the focus to areas recognized by homeless advocates could finally quell the rising population in Los Angeles. The nascent proposition has many foundational hurdles to overcome concerning planning and funding, however, the impact could reach beyond the city’s borders. If successful, this approach could extend to cities across the country to address the state of emergency facing countless homeless individuals and families.

1. Jennifer Medina, Los Angeles Puts $100 Million Into Helping Homeless, N.Y. Times, Sept. 22, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/us/los-angeles-plans-100-million-effort-to-end-homelessness.html.

2. Peter Jamison, David Zahniser, & Matt Hamilton, L.A. to Declare ‘State of Emergency’ on Homelessness, commit $100 Million, L.A. Times, Sept. 22, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-funding-proposals-los-angeles-20150921-story.html.

3. Shelby Grad and Gale Holland, How the Los Angeles Homeless Crisis Got So Bad, L.A. Times, Sept. 22, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-how-los-angeles-homeless-crisis-got-so-bad-20150922-story.html.

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