Los Angeles agrees to settle lawsuit over homelessness crisis

Los Angeles leaders announced a lawsuit settlement agreement on Friday that commits the city to sheltering or housing thousands of homeless people within five years, but it’s unclear how far it will expand efforts already underway.

The settlement also draws a clear distinction between the responsibilities of the city and those of Los Angeles County, which operates the local public health system. The county is also part of the lawsuit but has not settled.

“The city is committed to building a minimum of 14,000 beds and already has more than 13,000 beds underway,” City Council President Nury Martinez said during a news conference at the City Hall. town.

The city estimated that 14,000 to 16,000 units would cost between $2.4 billion and $3 billion.

The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition that includes businesses, residents, landlords, homeless people and others who allege city and county inaction has created a dangerous environment.

The homeless population was once largely confined to downtown Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row, but encampments have spread widely, including near City Hall.

Elizabeth Mitchell, a lawyer for the alliance, said the settlement requires the city to provide shelter on a schedule “imposed by time and imposed by justice,” help get people off unsanitary and unsafe streets, and make spaces public for their intended uses.

“But what the settlement doesn’t do…is provide the services and treatment needed to holistically address this issue,” Mitchell said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti called homelessness “a raging fire in Los Angeles” and said it was time to put it out. He hailed the settlement as “an important infusion of momentum.”

The city’s actual housing commitment will be based on the 2022 point-in-time homeless count, which is still ongoing. Last year’s count was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of January 2020, there were over 66,400 homeless people in Los Angeles County, including 41,000 within the Los Angeles city limits.

Under the agreement, the city would create a shelter or housing for 60% of the city’s homeless people who do not have a serious mental illness, substance abuse disorder or chronic physical illness.

The city, which does not have its own health department, argues that the county is obligated to provide services and housing for people with these issues, but fails.

“What we need to do is ask the county to step in and do their part,” Martinez said.

Los Angeles County responded in a statement reiterating its assertion that the settlement only applies to Skid Row in Los Angeles.

“As for the county, we remain committed to our goal of addressing homelessness as a regional crisis affecting people and communities in all of our 88 cities as well as unincorporated areas” , did he declare.

Since voters passed a sales tax increase in 2017 to fund homelessness measures, the county has housed more than 75,000 people and over the past three years has increased shelter capacity by 60%, according to the press release.

He added that a record $1 billion will be spent this year on programs to house even more people while providing mental health and other services.

“The (County) Board of Supervisors is fully committed to continuing and expanding this massive mobilization to create lasting solutions to this humanitarian crisis,” he said.

The alliance said the settlement applies to all of Los Angeles, not just Skid Row, and the group will pursue its lawsuit against the county.

The settlement agreement requires the approval of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing the case.

Last year, Carter issued an order that would have required the city and county to provide shelter to all homeless people on Skid Row within six months.

An appeals court overturned the order on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring most of the claims. The alliance then filed an amended complaint.