As expected, Los Angeles County has given notice to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that it will fight a federal judge’s order that the city and county must offer housing to the entire homeless population of downtown’s Skid Row by October.
The three-page notice of appeal filed late Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court simply states that the county is appealing U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s mandate setting a timetable by which single women and unaccompanied children in Skid Row must be offered placement within 90 days, and every indigent person in the downtown area must be offered shelter by Oct. 18.
Officials believe there are several thousand persons currently living on Skid Row streets. According to the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, more than 1,400 people in the area accepted temporary accommodations last year.
Following Carter’s expansive 110-page order — in which he ordered the audit of all public money spent in recent years to combat the crisis that has spread throughout the region — city and county lawyers deemed the mandate overly broad, unmanageable and in danger of overturning the role of local government and longstanding programs dealing with the homeless.
The judge’s sudden order came in response to a request for immediate court intervention submitted last week by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, the plaintiffs in a year-old federal lawsuit seeking to compel the city and county to quickly and effectively deal with the problem.
Carter’s decree was issued a day after Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to spend a portion of nearly $1 billion next year to house the ever-growing population of unsheltered people. The judge ordered that the money must be placed in escrow — with a spending plan “accounted for and reported to the court within seven days.”
Carter indicated he is frustrated by what he considers government inaction, bureaucratic paralysis and a lack of accountability in dealing with a calamity that has become as representative of Los Angeles as palm trees, sunshine and the Hollywood Bowl.
“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” the judge wrote in the Tuesday filing.
Garcetti called the pace of the judge’s homelessness placement schedule “unprecedented” and questioned where “the rooms, the real estate, etc.” would be found to shelter several thousand indigent citizens within 180 days.
“I think many of us feel it’s not just about getting people into shelter, it’s getting people into homes,” the Los Angeles mayor said this week.
The judge suggested that Skid Row — a sprawling 50-block warren of downtown streets containing one of the largest populations of indigent people in the nation — was a byproduct of a legacy of racism that left Black people — especially Black women — “effectively abandoned on the streets. Such governmental inertia has affected not only Black Angelenos, not only homeless Angelenos, but all Angelenos — of every race, gender identity, and social class.”
Carter said that the time has come “to redress these wrongs and finish another measure of our nation’s unfinished work.”
The L.A. Alliance, a group of downtown business owners and residents, brought the lawsuit against the city and county in March 2020. During more than a dozen federal court hearings, the lawsuit has become bogged down in bureaucratic snarls between the city and county, prompting Carter to consider how he might deploy the power of the federal court to speed up efforts to get city sidewalks cleared and place homeless people into housing.
L.A. Alliance lawyers have written that Skid Row is a “catastrophe created by the city and county” in which the city adopted a policy of “physical containment” in which the poor, disabled and mentally ill would be “contained” inside the delineated borders of downtown.