Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that he expects the number of homeless people in the city to rise again this year, and he hopes the City Council and the state identify more money to double or triple his new $20 million plan to install temporary shelters around the city.
Garcetti said the City Council for many years has identified millions in available extra money after the mayor proposes his budget, and that all of it should go toward the shelter program. His comments, made during a sit-down news conference with print and radio media outlets that cover City Hall, came after Councilman Jose Huizar said this week that the mayor’s $20 million plan was well short of what is needed and would only be enough to cover Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 people live on the streets.
“(Huizar’s) right, and the council always — they get my budget and they get to add some $10 to $20 million. I’d love if they put 100 percent into expanding this even further,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti’s temporary shelter plan — which calls for the installation of trailers, tents, storage units or safe parking spaces in each of the 15 council districts — is a new approach that he had not previously called for before his State of the City speech last month, where he labeled homelessness as “the issue” facing the city. The mayor’s previous major efforts focused on supporting Measure HHH, a city bond measure approved by voters in 2016 that was expected to raise $1.2 billion for permanent supportive housing, and Measure H, a county sales tax increase approved by voters last year tjat was expected to raise $355 million for homeless programs annually for 10 years.
Garcetti previously said the temporary shelters would help transition people out of sidewalk encampments and into the permanent housing units being built, as well as give them better access to services, which under the plan would be paid for with Measure H funds. When Garcetti made the proposal, Huizar had already put forward his own plan for a major installation of temporary trailers in Skid Row, which he estimated would cost $20 million to meet the need in the neighborhood.
“If we are serious about saying that we are going to take this to the core and saying we will not allow these conditions to exist any more, let’s address those 2,000 people at Skid Row and increase the amount of the $20 million so that we reach the rest of the city,” Huizar told the Budget and Fiance Committee earlier this week.
Garcetti also told reporters that he would like to use some potential money from a state assembly bill under consideration to double or triple the shelter program. Assembly Bill 3171 would dedicate $1.5 billion in state budget surplus money to address homelessness.
Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” shelter initiative, which is outlined in his proposed 2018-19 budget released last month, comes after the city saw a 20 percent rise in the number of homeless last year, to 34,189, and weeks before the new Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count results are expected to be released. Pasadena has already released its count numbers and said the city saw a 19 percent rise in 2018. The count was conducted in January.
“I expect (the homeless count) to probably go up this year,” Garcetti said. “The first honest year we’ll have on the success of H and HHH and our strategies will be this year because remember the dollars for H only flowed in October,” Garcetti said.
He added, “But I don’t expect it to go down, and I haven’t heard the numbers. It frustrates me it takes so long between the count and getting the answers, but frankly I would be surprised if it goes down.”
Temporary shelter plans in Orange County have been met with harsh opposition by some communities there, but Garcetti said he didn’t expect it to be the same in Los Angeles.
“I think that Orange County is a few years behind what we’ve gone through already in this city,” Garcetti said. “It’s not that we don’t have any NIMBYism, but we have much less, and I think over time Orange County will realize there’s no place else but here in each one of our cities that we have to solve this problem. I think that’s an inevitable conclusion.”
Garcetti and Council President Herb Wesson announced earlier this week that a city parking lot in Koreatown was being proposed as the first possible site for the Bridge Home program, but already some opposition is forming to the plan, or at least to the outreach process. The opposition could serve as a preview to the kind of resistance the city could face as it looks to quickly install the shelters, as was a city plan several years go to install storage units for the homeless in Venice, which was met with a lawsuit.
The Korean American Coalition said there was little public outreach made in the neighborhood before the announcement of the Koreatown shelter, and the coalition encouraged concerned community members to attend a meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee on Wednesday where the shelter is expected to be on the agenda.
“KAC has received numerous phone calls from concerned community members regarding the announcement. And while homelessness has become an important issue in Southern California, impacting our very own community members and Koreatown residents, these efforts deserve the complete input of all voices,” KAC said in a statement. “In that spirit, KAC believes we can work together to find meaningful solutions as we move forward.”
Garcetti said he has told City Council members who want to install shelters in their neighborhoods that he will back them up, and that although they might not all go as planned, the shelters are coming.
“I’ve said I’m there for them. You want me to turn up to a meeting, you want me to sit down with a group that’s upset or whatever, I will make that case. What we won’t do is say we’re not doing this,” Garcetti said. “There may be some places that don’t work out logistically or are too expensive or whatever. I’m not saying 100 percent of the proposed places will go through, but we will not back off just because people say, `I don’t like shelters.”’
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