LOS ANGELES (CNS) - One of the key new initiatives Mayor Eric Garcetti put forward in his recent State of the City address and proposed 2018-19 budget was $20 million for emergency shelters for the homeless, but a Los Angeles city councilman who represents the Skid Row area said today that the amount falls short of what is needed.
Councilman Jose Huizar said his office has estimated that $20 million would be needed just to build enough emergency shelters to house the people of Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 people sleep on the street each night. The city saw a spike in homelessness last year by 20 percent, or about 34,000 people.
``We need to see if we can have more funding for this so that we do it throughout the city where it's necessary, but at the same time focus on the epicenter of Skid Row where we continue to say that those are some inhumane conditions that we shall not allow,'' Huizar told the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee.
``If we are serious about saying that we are going to take this to the core and saying we will not allow these conditions to exist any more, let's address those 2,000 people at Skid Row and increase the amount of the $20 million so that we reach the rest of the city,'' he said. The Budget and Finance Committee is holding a series of hearings on the mayor's proposed 2018-19 budget. Huizar is not on the committee.
When Garcetti delivered his State of the City address last month, he labeled homelessness as ``the issue'' facing the city while proposing that a total of $429 million be spent on fighting the problem, an increase from $178 million this fiscal year.More than half of the new homeless spending would use funds from Measure HHH, a bond measure which Garcetti helped convince city voters to approve in 2016 and which is expected to raise $1.2 billion over 10 years for permanent supportive housing construction.
The $20 million was to take a new approach and build temporary shelters made out of trailers or large tents to help get people off the streets and transition them into permanent housing or toward more services.Prior to his April 16 speech, Garcetti had resisted calling for the installation of emergency shelters on a wide scale.
``We need to stand up emergency shelters fast and we need to do it now,'' Garcetti said during his speech. The idea to use temporary trailers or tents to help get people off the streets has been led on the council by Huizar, who convinced his colleagues earlier this year to approve the installation of five trailers near the El Pueblo Historical Monument. Garcetti's proposal would split the $20 million up evenly per district, to $1.3 million each, but if any funds were unallocated by Jan. 1, 2019, any City Council member could use them for his or her district.
Coupled with the money for emergency shelters is $17 million in additional money for crews that clean up homeless encampments, and any district that welcomed an emergency shelter would see increased levels of encampment cleanup efforts, Garcetti said. Huizar said the plan would not add the additional cleanup crews until 2019, during the second half of the fiscal year that begins in July, but that the budget should make space for the additional crews to be hired immediately.
``The current proposal offers only six months funding for these teams, but we need them on the streets now,'' Huizar said.