Mirroring a step taken by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on her first day in office last month, the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a motion proclaiming a local emergency on homelessness.
“Today’s unanimous action by the board honors the November mandate from L.A. County voters: lead with urgency and transparency to address the homelessness crisis in every neighborhood,” Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath said in a statement following the vote.
The board last month approved a motion calling on its staff to work arm-in-arm with Los Angeles city officials to address homelessness and assist in any way possible to implement Bass’ emergency declaration. But the board on Tuesday approved a declaration of its own, noting that the Long Beach City Council is scheduled to vote on a homelessness emergency proclamation Tuesday night for the second-largest city in the county.
“While Los Angeles and Long Beach represent the two largest cities in Los Angeles County, many other smaller cities in the county are also struggling to address homelessness,” the board motion by Supervisors Horvath and Kathryn Barger states. “These smaller cities can permit new affordable housing in their jurisdictions through their land use powers, but in many cases rely on the county for funding and homelessness services. Without a coordinated effort between cities and the county we will not be able to effectively address homelessness.”
The motion noted, “Proclaiming a local emergency to address this critical crisis will provide the county with additional tools to accelerate and expand its response through the Homeless Initiative and in collaboration with our city partners. These additional tools include accelerated hiring of additional employees to address homelessness and mental health, the more effective and efficient use of funds, an expedited procurement of critical items, a faster and more streamlined creation of housing, expanded services, and the ability to request additional resources from the State and Federal governments.”
In addition to proclaiming the emergency, the motion also directs county staff to expedite procurement and contracting processes for materials and services needed to address the homelessness crisis, expedite the hiring of staff to address the crisis and direct the homeless to relevant services and housing, accelerate efforts to create more licensed shelter beds and interim and permanent housing, and to identify funding that can be directed to housing and services.
The motion calls for a report back in six months on the effectiveness of the effort, and a decision in a year on whether to extend the emergency declaration.
The municipal emergency declaration by Bass allows her to take more aggressive executive actions to confront the crisis, though the City Council will have to sign off on the declaration every 30 days.
The last time a mayor declared a local emergency related to homelessness was in 1987, when Mayor Tom Bradley cited the effect of winter weather on people experiencing homelessness, according to the declaration. The conditions now, the declaration claimed, are “even more dire.”
The most recent point-in-time homeless count last year found nearly 42,000 homeless people in the city of Los Angeles, and more than 69,000 in the county.
“Okay, let’s go to work,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said following the board’s vote on the county declaration.