City Officials Announce Settlement of LA Homelessness Lawsuit


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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The city of Los Angeles will spend up to $3 billion over the next five years to develop as many as 16,000 beds or housing units for the homeless, enough to accommodate 60% of the homeless population in each of the 15 City Council districts, under terms a settlement announced today of a long-running lawsuit demanding solutions to the local homeless crisis.

The settlement with the LA Alliance for Human Rights does not include Los Angeles County, which is also a defendant in the lawsuit, but city officials said the county will be responsible for providing services and housing for homeless individuals with serious mental illness, substance-use issues or chronic physical illnesses.

City leaders said the county must provide services for that segment of the homeless population, since it has the medical and social-work facilities to do so -- while the city does not.

The actual number of housing units and beds the city will be required to build under the settlement remains uncertain, pending the results of the recently conducted ``point-in-time'' countywide homeless count. But city officials estimate that meeting the terms of the settlement will require the addition of 14,000 to 16,000 beds, costing between $2.4 billion and $3 billion.

According to the most recent homeless count, conducted prior to the pandemic in 2020, the countywide homeless population was 66,433, a nearly 13.% increase from the previous year. The city of Los Angeles homeless population was 36,165, up 14% from the prior year.

Los Angeles County issued a statement Friday applauding news of the settlement between the Alliance and the city, and saying it remains ``steadfast in our focus on addressing homelessness as a regional crisis affecting people and communities in all of our  88 cities as well as in the unincorporated areas. ''

County officials said that since the passage of Measure H in 2017, the county has provided housing for 75,000 people experiencing homelessness, and shelter capacity has increased by 60% over the past three years. The county noted it has committed more than $1 billion to the issue this fiscal year alone.

``The Board of Supervisors is fully committed to continuing and expanding this massive mobilization to create lasting solutions to this humanitarian crisis,'' according to the county statement. ``In this ongoing battle against homelessness, the county will continue to use its resources to support people experiencing homelessness within the area of Los Angeles that is the subject of this lawsuit, while also maintaining our obligation  to use our resources equitably to support people experiencing homelessness in the rest of the city of Los Angeles and in the remaining 87 cities and unincorporated areas.''

The county was also named as a defendant in the March 2020 complaint, but recently withdrew from closed-door settlement talks in Los Angeles federal court.

City officials said the settlement announced Friday has already been OK'd by U.S. District Judge David Carter, who has been overseeing the lawsuit.

In February, Carter ordered a series of mandatory settlement talks to begin after city and county representatives indicated they had no sense of when or if they might strike a deal that would lead to a shared agreement with the association of downtown residents, homeless individuals and property owners which filed the suit.

Over the past six weeks, city and county representatives separately shuffled in and out of Carter's chambers for multi-hour meetings -- with little progress to report until last week when there were indications that a settlement was in the works.

At least twice, a seemingly exasperated Carter requested the presence of Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez at the confidential meetings.

During open court hearings, Carter has referred several times to a ``historic schism'' between the city and county that had apparently stymied previous settlement efforts.

The two entities were ostensibly supposed to come to a compromise on funding and other issues before an agreement with the L.A. Alliance could be reached.

The lawsuit brought by the L.A. Alliance had been on hold almost since it was filed, with the goal of forcing local government to ``comprehensively'' deal with the homelessness crisis downtown.

Settlement talks eventually expanded from the original lawsuit focus of downtown's Skid Row area to the thousands of transients living under or next to the region's freeways, then ultimately to the county's entire homeless population.

The plaintiffs argued that wherever the homeless are located, services have not kept pace with the ever-expanding crisis.

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