Addressing the growing problem of homelessness in Los Angeles by providing housing and services over the next decade will carry a hefty price — topping $1.8 billion — and could require the city to raise taxes, according to a report released Thursday.
The analysis prepared by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso at the request of the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti notes that the city has long fallen short on building affordable housing and providing shelter for the homeless, resulting in an expensive path to resolving the problem.
The greater Los Angeles area has a homeless population of 41,174 people, a 16 percent increase from 2013, according to a 2015 count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. More than half of them — an estimated 25,686 — are in the city of Los Angeles.
Santana and Tso make a series of recommendations for addressing the situation, with the bulk of the $1.87 billion expense resulting from the need to build or lease more housing and the rest for providing services and outreach.
“Today’s homeless crisis did not develop overnight, nor will it be eliminated any time soon,” according to the report. “The city must be committed to multi-year goals, strategies and funding sources as there are no panaceas or easy answers to solve homelessness. Initial progress may be slow as funding sources, systems and housing will require time to develop.”
The report notes that “new funding sources must be pursued,” it stresses that addressing the problem will require a coordinated effort with the city and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, along with nonprofit organizations. It offers a range of potential funding options, including increases in hotel bed taxes and parking taxes, establishing an affordable housing levy or moving ahead with a bond measure — all of which would require a public vote.
“While costs to fully address homelessness are significant, the cost of inaction will continue to grow,” according to the report.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called the report a “blueprint we need to take swift action” to address homelessness. He and City Council members last year called for $100 million to be spent on the issue.
The report “incorporates the three pillars of my homelessness strategy – – scaling up the Coordinated Entry System; preventing people at-risk for homelessness from landing on the streets; and balancing health and safety concerns with the rights and needs of people who are living in unacceptable conditions,” Garcetti said. “I am committed to working with the City Council and our county partners to enact a broad-reaching policy in the coming weeks.”
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, co-chair of the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said the city has already laid the groundwork for addressing “our estimated $1.8 billion housing gap” while bolstering services and “address some root causes of long-term poverty.”
“I look forward to reducing homelessness across our city with a particular focus on people of color as I’ve come to learn that this is by far the largest segment of the homeless population in the city and county.”
Committee co-chair Councilman Jose Huizar the report is the result of months of work by the panel “where we literally began building a strategy from the ground up — creating the necessary infrastructure and institutional knowledge to address homelessness that did not exist until now.”
Also included in the report are recommendations that all city employees – – including police officers — be better educated to interact with homeless people and be empowered to connect them with services and housing. It also calls for the creation of a homelessness coordinator and a strategy to create more housing at all income levels.
“I am grateful we have a blueprint for a genuine, long-term strategy, encouraged by the report’s focus and clarity, and tremendously impatient to make things happen,” said Councilman Mike Bonin, who also sits on the Homelessness and Poverty Committee and represents the Venice area, which has a high concentration of homeless.
“We need this report’s long-range vision to build sufficient housing, but we also need immediate action that will reduce the number of encampments in our neighborhoods and get people living on our streets the support and services they need and deserve,” Bonin said.
–City News Service
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