Los Angeles County Supervisors declare homelessness state of emergency

Los Angeles County Supervisors declare homelessness state of emergency

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed recently elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and declared a state of emergency due to homelessness in the county.

County Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger introduced the motion that was unanimously approved Tuesday by the five-member elected board.

“This emergency proclamation comes down to cutting red tape,” Barger said.

“This critical move ensures that the county is efficiently using every single resource at our disposal,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath.

Diandra Jay / Los Angeles County

“It’s the county’s job to provide critical mental health, substance abuse treatment and case management services that make a world of difference in helping people experiencing homelessness off our streets and back on their feet,” Barger said. “Our efforts have been continually hampered by staff shortages and bureaucratic processes that slow our ability to hire, fill positions and contract for services.”

The housing crisis and homelessness have been at the center of attention in California politics and policy in recent years. The state and many large cities and counties have passed and sold billions of dollars in bonds to finance affordable housing.

California’s housing crisis has been mentioned in appraisal discussions for the state and its major cities over the past several years, although it has not been linked to any appraisal action.

Gov. Gavin Newsom took some heat as he presented his proposed budget Tuesday, when he discussed the billions the state government has given to local governments to address the housing crisis and the likelihood that lawmakers will introduce legislation this session to increase accountability about how that money is spent. He included another $750 million toward such efforts in his proposed $297 billion budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

“There will have to be consequences for misconduct and non-performance, the most critical and essential element that government must do,” Newsom said. “All the money we’ve invested in housing. It’s about accountability and driving private investment.”

The state required local governments to include housing for its poorest residents and homeless people in their housing plans if they want to receive state money for such efforts. Newsom did not target Los Angeles’ efforts specifically with his criticism.

Former Los Angeles City Comptroller Ron Galperin had criticized Los Angeles’ spending on housing homeless individuals in an audit of the $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016.

Bass declared her homelessness emergency in December, on her first official day in office. The City Council approved the statement soon after.

Bass’s emergency declaration gives her the power to remove rules and regulations that slow or impede the construction of permanent and temporary housing for the homeless; to expedite contracts that prioritize bringing homeless Angelenos in; and to allow the city to acquire rooms, property and land for housing for Angelenos in need, according to the mayor.

“I want to thank Supervisor Horvath, Supervisor Barger and the entire Board of Supervisors for unanimously joining hands with the county and city in declaring an emergency on the homeless crisis,” Bass said in a statement.

County supervisors said they are also working closely with Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson to make sure the region has a cohesive plan to address the issue. With 466,000 residents, Long Beach is the second most populous city in the county, after Los Angeles with 3.9 million residents.

The emergency declaration directs county departments to improve and expedite contracting, procurement and hiring. It also requires county departments to expedite timelines for establishing licensed beds, temporary shelter and permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness, while expediting access to other county services.

Additionally, the statement directs Executive Director Fesia Davenport to identify existing and additional funding sources and requires statewide communications to develop and implement a communications plan to engage with the public and all regional partners on the progress being made.

“This critical move ensures that the county is efficiently using every single resource at our disposal to treat this crisis with the attention it deserves,” Horvath said in a statement.

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