The entire homeless population living within downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood must be provided housing by Oct. 18, a federal judge ordered Tuesday, citing a need for “immediate, life-saving action” following years of negligence, racism and financial corruption by local officials.
“This ever-worsening public health and safety emergency demands immediate, life-saving action. The City and County of Los Angeles have shown themselves to be unable or unwilling to devise effective solutions to L.A.’s homelessness crisis,” U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in a 110-page brief.
The order came in response to a lawsuit brought by the LA Alliance for Human Rights. The group of downtown businesses and residents had sued local government officials over their handling of the area’s expanding homelessness crisis, which they said has resulted in an average of three deaths per day.
While accusing government officials of dragging their feet on taking proper action, Carter mandated that Los Angeles city and county offer shelter or housing to all single women and accompanied children within 90 days. Officials also have 120 days to provide accommodations for all families and 180 days for the general population.
Carter further ordered Los Angeles county and city officials to identify land or properties by October that may be developed for 455,000 new units of housing, including 185,000 units for lower-income tenants. A special monitor, whom the city and county will pay for, should also assist in and resolve any disputes. $1 billion will also be placed in an escrow account to fund the operations.
At last count, in January 2020, more than 4,662 unhoused people were determined to be living in Skid Row. About 2,500 were residing in large shelters and 2,093 were living on the streets, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported.
The same day as Carter’s order, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released his next fiscal year budget, which earmarks nearly $1 billion in spending on homelessness, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Garcetti’s office, as well as the county’s, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment on Wednesday.
According to local station Fox 11, Garcetti has called the judge’s timetable “unprecedented” but also suggested that he had not yet read Carter’s full brief.
“I want to be as bold and as ambitious as him, but as I said, I think many of us feel it’s not just about getting people into shelter, it’s getting people into homes,” he said.
The area’s homelessness crisis has continued to raise nationwide concern. At last count in 2020, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority tallied more than 107,700 homeless people in the city and county of Los Angeles. This was a 12.7% rise from the prior year.
“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of City and County officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Carter wrote. “All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets.”
Carter cited numerous failures in local efforts to curb homelessness, including the $1.2 billion homeless housing bond measure, Proposition HHH, which city voters passed in 2016 to create affordable housing. It has continually faced criticism for failing to live up to its goals.
“Funds that taxpayers voted to allocate to the homeless population are being siphoned away to line the pockets of corrupt individuals while the City sits by idly,” Carter said, later asking: “where has that money gone and what has it achieved?”
He also slammed decades of racism and segregation that he said has not been adequately rectified.
“Black Angelenos are vastly overrepresented in the homeless population. From 2016 to 2017, the city saw a 22% increase in the number of unhoused Black Angelenos,” Carter wrote. “Yet, in the same period, the number of white Angelenos experiencing homelessness decreased by 7%. Further, racism in Los Angeles is far from simply black and white — Latinos make up at least 35% of the homeless population, a figure that likely undercounts the number of Latinos homeless.”