Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a proposed housing and trauma-assistance program Wednesday for 100 women living on downtown’s skid row, while lauding the signing of state legislation that could help expedite the process of building housing citywide.
Speaking from the Unified Homelessness Response Center in downtown, Garcetti said the Skid Row pilot program would target women who are experiencing homelessness on skid row and have experienced trauma, providing them with housing and care.
The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million, which Garcetti said he will ask the City Council to approve immediately.
“We’ve seen homelessness emergencies disproportionately on skid row,” Garcetti said, adding that the city must address the disproportionate number of black people in the city’s homeless population.
“Nine percent of the (city’s) population makes up 40% of our homeless population,” he said.
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission member Jacqueline Waggoner said she and the rest of the board are working with data to find people who are most vulnerable to violence.
“What we learned from the reports is that we need to build trauma-informed care into our system,” Waggoner said.
She said ad hoc committees led by homeless and trauma experts will work to address the issues black homeless women face.
Garcetti said the city plans to dedicate about $20 million to specifically address the homeless issues on skid row.
Meanwhile, Garcetti also hailed legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month that allows Los Angeles to bypass environmental reviews to build permanent supportive housing, saying it will help speed construction and potentially save the city $120 million.
The mayor also announced that former Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Nick Patsaouras has agreed to join the city on a volunteer basis to consult on shelter planning and homeless outreach. He will be part of what Garcetti described as a Central Command team for homeless issues that includes the chief of police, fire chief and city department leaders.
As he delivered an overview of the city’s efforts to address homelessness, Garcetti again took a swipe at the federal government, saying if it got more involved, the issue could be resolved in a matter of two years.
“We have to get rid of the idea that we can snap our fingers and make this go away,” Garcetti said. “That’s why we need national leadership. One out of eight who qualify (for federal housing assistance) don’t get it.”
The cost of supportive housing has been an issue, coming in at more than $510,000 per unit, but Garcetti said the city only loans about $150,000 per unit and the remaining costs are paid by developers.
The mayor said the city didn’t expect the price of construction materials to rise so quickly, which he attributed in part to tariffs that have been imposed in the country’s ongoing trade wars.
Garcetti said more permanent supportive housing is being built throughout the city, and since the summer, Los Angeles has doubled its shelters with funding from the city’s $1.2-billion Proposition HHH loan program.
“Los Angeles is adding more beds, we’ve opened our eighth Bridge Home shelter and they (the shelters) have been opening every two weeks,” Garcetti said.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the last round of HHH funding for permanent housing projects on Tuesday.
The mayor said there are 151 supportive housing and temporary shelter projects that are fully funded, making up about 13,000 bedrooms and shared bedrooms. Several permanent housing projects are more than halfway finished.
The city hopes to have 26 of its Bridge Home shelters open by the end of July.
The pledge from each member of the City Council is to house at least 220 units in their individual districts.
Garcetti said the city is prioritizing its homeless strategies based on “streets, shelters, advocacy and housing,” and that the Homeless Response Center will focus on increasing services in those sectors.
This month, the city’s CARE and CARE Plus teams were deployed, conducting cleanups and providing outreach to homeless people. Garcetti said the city intends to double its cleanups form 900 to 1,800 within the next year.
There are about 220 CARE workers. A CARE pilot program in July removed 8.45 tons of waste from city streets, including 335 pounds of hazardous waste in one council district, according to the mayor’s office.