LA City and County Seek Mediator to Oversee Efforts to Settle Homeless Suit

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles city and county lawyers jointly asked a federal judge to appoint a mediator to oversee efforts to resolve the sticking point in a lawsuit seeking to move thousands of indigent people off the streets and away from freeways, according to court papers obtained today.

In the late-night filing Thursday, attorneys requested that U.S. District Judge David Carter appoint a neutral arbitrator to help find a solution to the question of responsibility for costs associated with bringing the homeless indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What are the respective financial responsibilities of the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles with regard to operational costs at shelters or similar alternative housing options erected or established by the city,'' including costs for security, hygiene, food and case management for persons experiencing homelessness, including those living within 500 feet of a freeway overpass, underpass or ramp, is the issue described in the Los Angeles federal court filing.

Attorneys added that they do not waive rights to seek a stay or otherwise challenge any court order in the matter.

Two weeks ago, Carter ordered Los Angeles authorities to move thousands of homeless people away from freeways and ramps because of hazards, including pollutants, passing cars and potential earthquakes. The judge said local city and county governments must provide alternative shelter to the 7,000 people who camp out beneath the region's highways and on entrance and exit ramps.

Carter indicated the temporary injunction would go into effect on May 22, but allowed the parties to submit an alternative agreement. Talks broke down over shared funding, leading to the joint request for a second judge to oversee the dispute.

“It is regrettable that this ongoing endeavor to develop humane and sustainable responses to the challenges of homelessness is beleaguered by a legacy of bureaucratic entanglement and gridlock,'' the judge wrote in court papers.

The judge then gave authorities until Sept. 1 to relocate anyone camped within 500 feet of a freeway. Housing options would include shelters, safe parking sites for RVs, or hotel or motel rooms. Carter required an initial status report to be filed by June 12.

The lawsuit, filed in March by a group of downtown business owners and residents called the LA Alliance for Human Rights, alleges the city and county of Los Angeles have failed to protect the public and provide adequate shelter for those living on the streets. Plaintiffs sought to have a judge set a mandate to establish homeless services and sleeping options.

Photo: Getty Images

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