Homelessness was top of mind for many voters in the November elections and new local leaders are coming out swinging on the issue.
Homelessness was top of mind for many voters in the November elections and new local leaders are coming out swinging on the issue, with the recently-elected mayors of the Cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach both declaring the crisis an emergency since being sworn in less than a month ago.
The LA County Board of Supervisors took the same step on the county level Tuesday, unanimously passing a motion declaring homelessness a local emergency with the goal of ushering in a new sense of urgency regarding the issue and providing the tools necessary to effectively address it.
In September of this year, LA Homeless Services Authority released the results of the 2022 county-wide Homeless Count, which showed the total number of homeless residents increased to 69,144 from 66,436 in 2020, the last time the count occurred. In Santa Monica’s most recent count which took place on the night of Feb. 23, 2022, volunteers counted 807 unhoused people in the city. The 2023 point-in-time count is scheduled for Jan. 25.
The LA County declaration was co-authored by recently-elected Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath who represents the third district, including Santa Monica, and Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Horvath said it will allow the County to streamline processes to provide support and services to individuals experiencing homelessness and ensure collaboration throughout the county.
“We want to make sure that we are not going in 89 different directions – we do not have capacity to do that – this is about making sure that all departments within the county are working in a coordinated fashion both within the county itself and with our partners in the City of Los Angeles, the City of Long Beach, all of our community organizations and partners who work on this issue,” she said during the board’s Jan. 10 meeting.
Specifically, the declaration directs the County’s Chief Executive Office, Homeless Initiative and Office of Emergency management, among other departments, to “take necessary steps” to accelerate the process of getting people into housing and provide services such as substance abuse treatment, mental healthcare and job training by removing bureaucratic hurdles.
“This emergency proclamation boils down to cutting red tape,” Barger said in a press release. “It’s the County’s job to provide the critical mental health, substance abuse treatment, and case management services that make a world of difference in helping people experiencing homelessness get off our streets and back on their feet. Our efforts have been persistently hampered by a lack of personnel and bureaucratic processes that slow down our ability to hire, fill positions, and contract for services.”
Chair of the Board and Fourth District Representative Janice Hahn said during Tuesday’s meeting that the declaration is not symbolic, and will provide the county with the resources necessary to address the crisis.
“It’s kind of like ‘no more excuses,’” she said. “We’re giving you all the possible tools that you need to actually begin to show some real progress for those who are living on our streets.”
Horvath said that the various departments working on the issue will regularly report back to the Board of supervisors with their needs and plans for next steps. She also emphasized that the County’s approach is not to criminalize homeless individuals and to acknowledge the County’s role in providing them with support.
“These are folks who are residents of LA County who deserve services and care,” she said.