LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – After months of wrangling and ongoing negotiations, Los Angeles county and city officials have reached a deal in federal court to relocate an estimated 7,000 homeless people who live near freeways into shelters and permanent housing. The deal is in response to a lawsuit filed back in March which alleged that authorities were not doing enough to protect the homeless from the coronavirus.
Under the agreement, approved Thursday by Judge David O. Carter, the county will set aside $300 million over five years towards emergency housing services for homeless people living near freeways, along with homeless seniors with underlying health conditions who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The city of L.A., meanwhile, will provide 6,000 new beds within the next 10 months for those people, and another 700 beds over the next 18 months, according to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
“This agreement will lead to major action, not rhetoric,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement Thursday. “The court has challenged us to do better, to do more and to do it quickly, and we need to meet that challenge. We are now positioned to dive into difficult but honest conversations with our County partners about future financial resources and obligations. The Los Angeles City Council, and its leadership, will continue to do its duty to lead, collaborate and negotiate on behalf of the City with our County partners toward our common goal to house more homeless Angelenos faster.”
In March, a lawsuit was filed by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless people and disabled city dwellers who contended the apparent lack of services and alleged negligence on the part of city and county officials has resulted in a multitude of dangers in the area.
As the lawsuit dragged on, citing health and safety concerns, Judge Carter last month ordered that anyone camping within 500 feet of a freeway overpasses and underpasses be relocated to a shelter by May 22. He later extended the order, giving officials a Sept. 1 deadline to move them or reach a long-term deal, which they did today.
As part of Thursday’s agreement, Carter has dropped that relocation deadline.
The homeless crisis in L.A. has continued to worsen over the past several years. The 2020 Greater L.A. Homeless Count — which was conducted in January, prior to the pandemic — recorded 66,433 people living on the streets of L.A. County, a staggering 12.7% increase from the year before.
Of that total, 41,290 were within the city of L.A., which marked a 14.2% increase over 2019, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported.
In March 2017, L.A. County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.
In November 2016, L.A. city voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless. Prop HHH money was used to fund a new women’s shelter which opened in September 2019 on the site of the old Hollywood Library. Its also part of the Bride Home program.
In April, the state of California launched Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA to temporarily house homeless people in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. State and local governments are then reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75 percent for the cost of those rooms.
In 2018, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the “A Bridge Home” program, which involves putting up about two dozen temporary homeless shelters. The Bridge Home program housed 12,438 people in 2019, LAHSA reports.