Five Los Angeles City Council members called Wednesday for the creation of a committee to help coordinate homeless services, with city officials saying they spend more than $100 million a year to address the issue.
The proposed Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness is in response to a report issued last week by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who found the city has no focused plan to address issues affecting the city’s 23,000 homeless people, despite spending millions of dollars each year.
Santana told the council that when his staff questioned each city department on how they serve the homeless, “we were shocked to find that there is no central way” they were doing it.
“Each department confronts this issue in its own way,” he said, adding the $100 million is a conservative estimate.
Councilman Mike Bonin called the report a “wake-up call,” and said the city is essentially “wasting $100 million a year” by working without a plan.
If approved, the committee would be chaired by Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, considered to have the highest concentration of homeless people in the city.
The newly created panel would look at ways to better streamline the city’s response to homelessness and better coordinate with the Los Angeles County and other organizations that offer services to the homeless.
Huizar said he is calling for the committee because homelessness “has become a crisis of epic proportions” and is “one of the biggest issues” challenging the city, “yet we lack a comprehensive plan to address it.”
He added that the existing policy “has clearly failed us,” with the city preoccupied in recent years with reacting to litigation over issues around homelessness, such as over the removal of items left on sidewalks and streets by the homeless.
Council President Herb Wesson, who also backed the creation of the panel, said “the intractable nature of the problem, and the urgent need for a road-map to an effective comprehensive approach demands the focus” offered by a council committee.
— City News Service
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