Update from LA Alliance for Human Rights

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December 14, 2020

A lot has happened over the last couple months, and thanks to all that have reached out with offers to help and questions about current status with our lawsuit.  I want to first explain the agreement for 6,700 beds, what that means for any global agreement, and then discuss our current status and what you can do to  help.

Our lawsuit, filed in federal court on March 10, has led to a preliminary agreement between the City and County to create 6,700 beds, 6,000 of which are due by April, 2021.  The agreement was a result of an injunction that was issued by the Court ordering the City and County to humanely relocate individuals living over/under/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.  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 approximately 3,000 unhoused individuals away from freeway and into safer surroundings. We have already seen early success with these efforts. In Council District 3, 59 people have been relocated into shelter away from freeways with zero need for law enforcement. The early success of the model has been acknowledged publicly by just about every member of the City Council.  Several council members now seek to accelerate efforts in their own districts, while even council members who have hesitated now concede our balanced approach works.

In January, Judge Carter will be holding a status conference on Skid Row, depending on how the COVID numbers look at that time.  The goal is to determine whether the City is on track to meet its obligations by April.  The transcript for the November 5 hearing is available here.

While we were dismayed recently to hear the council discuss their lack of a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness (which 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.  Our solutions will actually change the trajectory of this crisis in our city and improve the quality of life for all of us, both the unhoused and the housed.

The City must act while it is getting its act together

With the early success in CD3, the Council is discussing basic steps forward including amending LAMC 41.18 (regulating and in some cases prohibiting sleeping on the sidewalk) and 56.11 (regulating the public storage of possession), but many have balked in response to contentious discussions at recent council meetings.  As with many things, the closer we get to success the louder the defenders of the status quo are becoming.  The motion was referred to committee and we expect it to return for full vote in the next couple months.  It is critical that your councilmember hears your voice and knows the community is in full support of these amendments.

Judge Carter has said that he will not allow the City to enforce any anti-sleeping/ anti-camping ordinance as to any person unless and until there is an adequate bed and 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.  We expect the City to honor its obligations and resolve these issues immediately but again, they need to hear your voices. 

We also need to let the Council know that we expect them to take some basic steps forward as they develop a broader strategy. Many communities would benefit from resumption of the CARES+ cleanings that have just been approved for Council District 15 only. It has been 9 months since these streets have been sanitized which poses a public health risk to everyone, the unhoused especially.  The first clean up in CD15 a few days ago proved to be without incident and very successful.

Finally, the decades-long disagreement between the City and County has become a stumbling block for the City, as the County and LAHSA have critical funds from tax revenue and state and federal grants which should be used to support the City’s initiatives. The County seems stuck in the status quo and needs to be encouraged to jump in with two feet.

Let your voice be heard before the New Year

With so much happening, it is critical for you to contact your City Councilmember as well as your County Supervisor to let them know that you support our lawsuit and expect them to develop a comprehensive and humane plan to end Los Angeles’s homelessness crisis. With government activities slowing down this time of year and city staff working from home because of the pandemic, now is the time to make phone calls and send emails to your representatives telling them that the situation on our streets cannot be allowed to deteriorate further while they take the time to develop a plan that should have existed years ago. We need leadership now.

Thank you for your ongoing support as we look to make an even bigger impact in 2021.

Don Steier

Chair, LA Alliance for Human Rights

Jamie Paige
jamiepaige2018@gmail.com, (424) 645-4471