IMPACT

Los Angeles Officials Declare Homelessness 'State Of Emergency'

"The human suffering that occurs on Skid Row is astonishing -- it will literally take your breath away."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and city council members declared a homelessness "state of emergency" on Tuesday and proposed $100 million for housing and other programs to help end it.

"The human suffering that occurs on Skid Row is astonishing -- it will literally take your breath away," Jose Huizar, city councilman and co-chair of the city's Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said during a press conference outside City Hall. "That kind of suffering, that kind of desperation, should not be happening in the City of Los Angeles, but it is. It’s a humanitarian crisis and a moral shame." 

Homelessness affects many parts of the city, with 25,000 to 50,000 people currently sleeping on the street, Councilman Gilbert Cedillo estimated

The plan to commit $100 million to ending homelessness dovetails with a proposal by Garcetti on Monday that would assign about $13 million in expected excess tax revenue to short-term housing. Sources for the balance of the $100 million initiative weren't identified. 

Rick Coca, spokesman for Huizar, told The Huffington Post that city council would look at "any and all available sources."  

Garcetti characterized homelessness in the city as "heartbreaking," and said city leaders were determined to "tackle it head-on," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The plans need approval from city council before moving forward. 

It's unclear how the spending programs would work. Huizar noted in remarks his office emailed to HuffPost that he expects the plan will, among other things, supply housing for the homeless, expand outreach and other services, and provide programs to help divert people from the streets. 

Activists said the $100 million initiative is a good start, but the lack of specifics was troubling.

"We need that [funding] annually, and we need it for new housing units," said Becky Dennison, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Community Action Network, an advocacy group for low-income Los Angelenos. 

The group said in a statement that the announcement raises many questions.

"If the City Council and the Mayor are serious about ending homelessness, their announcements would include new and substantial sources of long-term funding combined with a call to end to laws, policies, and approaches that emphasize LAPD enforcement over services and housing," the statement said. 

CONVERSATIONS