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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - City Attorney Mike Feuer said today that Los Angeles needs to invest in more interim housing for the homeless, along with more safe parking areas and safe storage spaces, and should create a senior- level position to coordinate all of the city's efforts for its transient population.
Feuer also said that he supports a proposed ordinance, coming up soon for consideration by the City Council, that would facilitate the conversion of motels into housing for the homeless.
``I don't think that anyone who lives in Los Angeles wants there to be a sense of normalcy around the prevalence of homeless encampments and the number of people who live on our streets,'' Feuer said during a wide-ranging news conference where he discussed many aspects of the city's efforts to battle homelessness.
Los Angeles voters last November approved Measure HHH, which authorized $1.2 billion in bonds to go toward the construction of 10,000 units of housing for the homeless, and county voters in March approved Measure H, a sales tax increase that will raise an estimated $355 million annually for 10 years to go toward homeless initiatives.
According the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, homelessness in the city of Los Angeles jumped 20 percent in 2017 from the year prior -- to more than 34,000 people.
With the recent approval of Measure HHH and Measure H, there are more resources than ever before for homeless programs, but the city needs to ``seize the moment'' and experiment with ways to help homeless people while the housing is being built, Feuer said.
``This is a moment when we should be piloting projects, evaluating their efficacy, building on successes, jettisoning what failed and moving forward,'' Feuer said.
Feuer's suggestion for a senior-level position at City Hall to coordinate efforts on homelessness comes even though the city already has a homelessness policy director who is appointed by the mayor. Alisa Orduna has been serving in the position since March 2016.
While Feuer praised the work that Orduna has done, he said the city needed a more senior-level official similar to the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to oversee all homeless issues in L.A.
``We need to treat homelessness like the emergency that it is, and there needs to be someone tantamount to a FEMA director who is terrific at logistics and execution who is in charge -- and everyone knows it -- for homelessness in the city,'' Feuer said.
He said representatives of his office have spoken to each council district office and stressed the need for three things -- more interim or ``bridge'' housing, more safe storage spaces for homeless peoples' belongings and more safe parking spaces. The city only has one safe parking area with 15 spaces and only one safe storage unit that is located in downtown Los Angeles, Feuer said.
A proposed storage facility run by the city for the homeless in Venice has been met with significant backlash, and a group of homeowners sued to stop it from opening.
It is illegal to sleep in a vehicle at night in residential areas in L.A., and the city has struggled to get a pilot program off the ground to create safe parking areas where it would be legal to do so.
``No one should be relegated to living in their car; it is not a long- term solution,'' Feuer said.
Feuer also said the ordinance to encourage motel owners to sell or lease their businesses to be used as housing for the homeless should go before the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee in November.
``There is a possibility that this could help in a significant way to alleviate some of our homeless housing and services issues, because what we should do is co-locate services and housing and services at locations,'' Feuer said.