It’s hardly a secret that Los Angeles has a massive problem with homelessness and that the area’s elected officials seem to be clueless about the extent and seriousness of the problem. A recent vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and comments by a couple of its members are a refreshing change and show that maybe, just maybe, meaningful progress could be in the cards.
Echoing sentiments expressed by Dr. Drew Pinsky and Rev. Andy Bales, Supervisor Janice Hahn said (emphasis added):
“I know our homeless-services folks out there are doing their best, but I feel like we are losing ground and we need to look at this as a humanitarian crisis on the scale of a natural disaster. We need a Marshall Plan to address homelessness and build shelters and housing on every possible piece of land that we can think of.”
Building shelters “on every possible piece of land” is probably not the solution I’d promote, but an admission (by a Democrat) that Los Angeles is losing ground and that it’s a humanitarian crisis is a huge win, especially considering Mayor Eric Garcetti’s constant crowing that the city is doing everything it can and succeeding.
Hahn’s comments came after a unanimous vote by the Board on a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger (the sole Republican) that “directs county staff to seek funding for the development of homeless housing and to identify a private-sector housing expert to oversee the planning” and “to look for ways to speed up the permitting, zoning and approval processes.” Barger has previously expressed frustration that in the three years since the city’s Proposition HHH and the county’s Measure H (countywide sales tax) passed, not a single new homeless housing unit has opened. Barger said to the LA Times:
“Our partners in the private sector know how to get the job done and have the capacity to explore innovative housing models that are faster and more affordable to produce. We can no longer afford to spend years siting and building a single interim housing facility. We cannot continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a single unit of permanent supportive housing.”
One type of private sector solution is a Sprung structure, a large, weather-resistant tent that can be erected quickly and holds 120 beds. The United Rescue Mission recently opened one in downtown Los Angeles.
“We cannot spend $600,000 per person per unit and ever get it done,” says Bales. “We’ve got to think innovatively or we’re going to have a bigger disaster on our hands.”
The first staff report is due to the Board of Supervisors on February 4, 2020.