Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that a lot more state money should be dedicated to homeless initiatives, and a recent report estimated it would cost more $657 million in one year to provide interim housing for 85 percent of the unsheltered homeless people in the city — but Garcetti said that goal wasn’t likely be accomplished even if all the funds were available.
“Everybody would love for us to have all of the money to do this in a single year, but you also have to have the capacity,” Garcetti said when asked about the recent report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority during a news conference.
The LAHSA report outlined the sheer magnitude of the homeless problem in the city, as the $657 million estimate is more than the city has dedicated to all homeless initiatives this coming fiscal year, a record level of $440 million which includes services, temporary shelters, permanent supportive housing and encampment cleanups. The city is also set to receive tens of millions in state money for homeless programs.
The mayor dedicated $20 million for temporary homeless shelters in the coming fiscal year’s budget, but noted the shelters take months to plan, approve and execute. Of the $657 million estimate, he said, “That’s kind of a theoretical number about what you can do in a single year.”
Garcetti said also that, with state legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown recently agreeing to dedicate $500 million this coming fiscal year to homeless programs, of which the city will receive $85 million, his “A Bridge Home” program for temporary homeless shelters should see an expansion in funding, including an additional $20 million just for Skid Row that Councilman Jose Huizar has requested.
Over the last few years, the number of unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles increased, rising from 17,687 in 2015 to 25,237 in 2017 before declining 8 percent in 2018 to 23,114. The total number of homeless, including sheltered and unsheltered individuals, also fell 5 percent in the city this year to 31,516.
The LAHSA report had been asked for by the City Council from a motion introduced by Councilmen Mike Bonin and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. The motion stated that, regarding emergency homeless shelters, there was “scant evidence of any progress, no apparent plan or strategy to make progress, and no evident sense of urgency or attention to any efforts to make progress. Even though officials have repeatedly declared a `state of shelter emergency,’ there is no institutional or organizational sense of emergency to move thousands of people off the streets immediately, or even in the next several weeks or months.”
When reviewing the report earlier this week, Bonin acknowledged the funding need it highlighted was not likely to come from any source any time soon.
“What this says is there are going to be tens of thousands of people sleeping on the streets and on our sidewalks for a long time to come. That’s what this says,” Bonin said. “Unless we come up with the resources and the will to spend an additional half billion dollars a year and hire 1,400 to 1,500 new people. That’s essentially what this says, and that’s sad and sobering, but it probably unfortunately is realistic.”
Garcetti’s office provided a document that outlined what his office wants to do with the additional state money recently approved, although it was drafted back when the mayor and other big city mayors were advocating for $1.5 billion for homeless programs. Garcetti said the outline still served as an example of how he wanted spend the city’s portion of state funds. It called for an additional $50 million for permanent supportive housing; $275 million for temporary shelters, navigation centers, bridge housing, building 4,270 additional beds, including mobile hygiene centers and projects on city-owned properties on sites of future permanent supportive housing; $32 million for rapid re-housing, including family reunification, shared housing and interim housing, creating 5,000 additional slots; $15 million for diversion and prevention, enough to prevent 10,800 individuals from becoming homeless; and $10 million for additional staffing.
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