LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The federal judge overseeing a lawsuit concerning the homelessness crisis in the Los Angeles area is expected to hold a status conference next month somewhere on Skid Row -- depending on how the COVID-19 numbers look at the time -- to determine whether the city and county are on track to meet obligations to provide 6,000 beds by April.
The lawsuit has led to a preliminary agreement between the city and county to provide 6,700 beds, 6,000 of which are due by April. The agreement was a result of an injunction that was issued by the court ordering the city and county to humanely relocate people living over, under and near freeways.
“While we are pleased at the agreement, it is not the final goal: think of it like an appetizer with the global agreement we are working towards as the main course,'' according to the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, which brought the lawsuit in March. “The goal of the global agreement is to create tens of thousands of new beds coupled with comprehensive services and resumption of regulation of our public spaces. This must be done in a way that is low cost and manageable, utilizing state and federal funds as much as possible.''
As part of the agreement with the county, the city is required to relocate 3,000 unhoused individuals away from freeways and into safer surroundings. In Council District 3, 59 people previously living in tents near the Ventura (101) Freeway in the West San Fernando Valley have been relocated with no need for law enforcement, the plaintiffs said.
The early success of the model has been acknowledged publicly by members of the City Council, who are apparently trying to accelerate efforts toward moving transients away from freeway encampments in their own districts.
The L.A. Alliance said the council's lack of a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness “is why we filed this suit in the first place. We are heartened the narrative has shifted towards our balanced approach and away from the `do nothing' approach council has taken thus far.''
Council members have discussed basic steps forward, including amending LAMC 41.18, the code regulating and, in some cases, prohibiting sleeping on the sidewalk, and 56.11, regulating public storage of possessions, according to the L.A. Alliance.
“As with many things, the closer we get to success, the louder the defenders of the status quo are becoming,'' an Alliance statement reads. “The motion was referred to committee and we expect it to return for full vote in the next couple months.''
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Council District 14 -- which includes downtown Los Angeles and Skid Row -- recently had the highest number of unhoused residents in the city, 7,896 -- more than 20% of the entire homeless population of Los Angeles.
“When I say this is a human catastrophe and a dystopian nightmare, I'm not speaking in hyperbole,'' Councilman Kevin de Leon, who represents the district, said during a November hearing in the case. “While housing the folks under the bridge is a great start, we have so much more work to do.''
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter has said that he will not allow the city to enforce any anti-sleeping/anti-camping ordinance as to any person unless until there is an adequate bed and support services offered to the individual.
“So there is no reason to delay waiting until more housing or shelter is available to pass this ordinances as some have argued -- the beds, services, and ordinances are designed to work together,'' according to the L.A. Alliance. “We expect the city to honor its obligations and resolve these issues immediately.''
The L.A. Alliance is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, service providers, small business owners, residents and community leaders seeking to compel Los Angeles city and county officials to address the homelessness crisis.
Carter has focused on removing homeless people from campsites located near freeways due to health concerns. However, without an anti-camping ordinance making it illegal for indigents to return to their encampments, momentum slowed in September and October.
Carter said the next hearing in the case would be at a date to be determined in January at or near the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.
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