City, County Reach Agreement to Shelter L.A. Homeless

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America

A joint legal agreement signed by Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles will ensure that nearly 7,000 homeless people living in encampments near freeways, homeless seniors over 65 and those vulnerable to COVID-19 will be brought indoors over the next eighteen months.

The agreement, signed Thursday by a federal judge, sees the city of L.A. commit to providing 6,000 new beds over the next ten months, with another 700 beds over 18 months. Los Angeles County has also committed to spending $300 million over the next five years on essential services for those people who are using the beds.

“This agreement will lead to major action, not rhetoric,'' said City Council President Nury Martinez. “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 agreement came about after a federal civil suit was filed in March by a group of downtown business owners and residents, dubbed the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights. In the suit, the group alleged the city and county of Los Angeles has failed to protect the public and provide adequate shelter for those living on the streets.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Carter approved a mediator that would help oversee efforts to help negotiate several sticking points, which delayed the settlement of the lawsuit, amid the on-going coronavirus pandemic.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbating Los Angeles' homeless crisis, it is imperative that we marshal our county and city resources to bring our most vulnerable neighbors indoors as expeditiously as possible,'' Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This is a new milestone in our partnership to ensure that everyone in Los Angeles has a life of dignity and worth.''

The agreement focuses on thousands of indigent people living within 500 feet of a freeway overpass, underpass or ramp. In May, Judge Carter ordered officials in Los Angeles to "humanely" relocated those people away from those areas because of deadly hazards like pollutants, passing cars and potential earthquakes.

The new agreement will not only help those people living near freeways relocate, it also aims to help the most vulnerable segment of the homeless population - those over the age of 65, or who have underlying health conditions that would put them at high-risk of hospitalization or death if they contract COVID-19.

As part of the agreement, the judge struck his relocation order, which was supposed to go into effect in September.

The passage of the county's Measure H in 2017 and the city's Prop. HHH in 2016, has helped to house more people every year, even as more people become homeless amid economic pressures brought on by the pandemic.

Between county and city facilities, more than 22,000 homeless people were housed last year, according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count released last week.

Photo: Getty Images

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