Newly-elected mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness as her official first act.
Bass’ office said the declaration gives her the authority to lift any current regulations that prevent permanent and temporary housing for the homeless from being built. The city can also buy properties and land for housing.
“My mandate is to move Los Angeles in a new direction, with an urgent and strategic approach to solving our city’s toughest challenges and creating a brighter future for every Angeleno,” Mayor Bass said in a statement Monday. “Today, on my first day in office, we hit the ground running, with a sea change in how the city tackles homelessness.”
In the declaration, Bass noted that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 238% since 2007, with the city making up 25% of California’s homeless population and 7% of the U.S. homeless population.
During its annual homeless count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimated that 69,144 people in Los Angeles County were experiencing homelessness, with 41,980 of them residing in the city itself. The number in the city represents an increase of 1.7% since 2020, with a count not being administered in 2021 due to the pandemic.
LAHSA said it was encouraged by the housing efforts over the past five years, saying L.A. County was seeing signs of “flattening the curve.”
“While it is too soon to know what this year’s count results will mean long-term, the numbers are suggesting there is a flattening of the curve that is driven by the necessary and effective economic programs that helped keep people in their homes throughout the pandemic,” Kristina Dixon, Acting Co-Executive Director at LAHSA said in a statement after the release of the homelessness count in September.
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis commended Bass for her declaration, saying she hoped it will “allow us to work together with the state and federal governments to ensure more support to house unsheltered Angelenos.”
In response to Bass’ declaration, activists within the community were not impressed, calling it “performative,” and pointing to the city ordinance 41.18, which has given districts authority to make homeless encampments illegal in several key portions of the city.
“Karen Bass still supports the criminalization of poverty with LAMC 41.18,” the Little Tokyo collective known as J-Town Action said in a tweet. “This performative word salad means nothing.”
Karen Bass still supports the criminalization of poverty with LAMC 41.18.
This performative word salad means nothing. https://t.co/OTZQbDhkls
— J-Town Action と Solidarity (@JTOWNACTION) December 12, 2022
The Housing Is A Human Right organization was more cautiously optimistic about Bass’ intentions, saying, “We look forward to seeing the declaration backed up by action.”
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