All homeless people in LA Skid Row must be offered housing by October – Pasadena now
Fed up with what he sees as government inaction, bureaucratic paralysis and lack of accountability, a federal judge has suddenly ordered the city and county of Los Angeles to provide housing for the entire homeless population from downtown Skid Row by October.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter has set a schedule for single women and unaccompanied children to be offered a placement within three months, families to be accommodated within four months, and every needy person in Skid Row would have the option to get off the streets by October 18.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called the schedule “unprecedented” in terms of speed.
“I want to read (the order) and understand how (the judge) would envision that to happen, where the parts are, the real estate, etc.,” Garcetti said. “I had very good conversations with the judge. Obviously, that would be an unprecedented rate, not just for Los Angeles, but for any place I have ever seen roaming in America. And I want to be as bold and ambitious as him, but like I said, I think a lot of us think it’s not just about sheltering people, it’s about making them go back home.
The groundbreaking 110-page order follows a request for immediate court intervention submitted last week by plaintiffs in a year-old federal lawsuit to force city and county to deal quickly and effectively to the homelessness crisis.
Skid Row is an area 50 city blocks from downtown streets containing one of the largest populations of indigent people in the country.
Skip Miller, an outside county attorney, said Carter’s order “goes way beyond what the plaintiffs have asked for.” He added that the county was evaluating its options, including the possibility of an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judge wrote that the city and county of Los Angeles “created a legacy of entrenched structural racism”, leaving black people – and particularly black women – “effectively abandoned on the streets. Such government inertia has affected not only Black Angelenos, not just homeless Angelenos, but all Angelenos – of all races, gender identities, and social classes.
The judge said that virtually “everyone in Los Angeles has suffered the consequences of the city and county’s continued failure to address the homelessness crisis in any meaningful way. The time has come to right these wrongs and to complete yet another measure of our nation’s unfinished business.
Quoting Heidi Marston, director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the judge wrote that “homelessness is a by-product of racism.”
In colorful language that takes into account the Civil War and Bruce’s Beach’s case of black forced displacement in Manhattan Beach, Carter traced the start of the Downtown Crisis to the 1920s, when the city created the Municipal Services Office for Homeless Men in Skid Row to help men by connecting them with philanthropic organizations that provided them with food and shelter
However, “aid from these organizations has been selectively distributed along racial lines,” the judge concluded, adding that Los Angeles’ road infrastructure was “built and remains a driver of racial inequality” in helping to displace and separate non-white communities.
Near Skid Row now “are flourishing districts – namely the Arts District and the Little Tokyo District. As these districts move closer to confinement limits, the police presence at Skid Row grows stronger, ”the judge wrote.
Carter’s housing order rejects city and county arguments that the federal court’s intervention would unduly usurp the role of local government and disrupt long-standing programs that already address the crisis.
The petition was filed by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of business owners and downtown residents that initially filed the lawsuit in March 2020. Lawyers for the city and county have strongly opposed, saying argue in court documents that the “extraordinary” attempt by the LA Alliance to invoke the power of the tribunal is “excessive and unmanageable”, has no legal status and “would improperly usurp the role of local government and its elected officials “.
Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney for the LA Alliance, said the organization was “delighted” with Carter’s order, which “takes the first step towards effectively addressing the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.”
She said city and county leaders have repeatedly called for a FEMA-like response – and that “the judge is keeping them at their word.”
“He also demanded accountability for the billions of dollars that are supposed to be used to house the homeless – who in fact are not housed at all,” she said. “The judge acknowledged the fact that almost everyone in Los Angeles is already keenly aware of: that the status quo does not work and cannot be allowed to continue. This order gives us hope that the solutions will finally begin to overcome the problems. “
In his order, Carter slammed Garcetti, who recently pledged to spend nearly $ 1 billion on initiatives to tackle homelessness and other issues, including sidewalk vending and arts activities. Instead, the judge ordered that the $ 1 billion “be placed in receivership immediately, with funding flows recorded and reported to court within seven days.”
Carter wrote that despite the power to declare the homelessness crisis an emergency – which would allow the city to “bypass bureaucracy and eliminate the inefficiencies that are currently stifling progress” – Garcetti “did not use the emergency powers given to it by the City Charter despite overwhelming evidence that the scale of the homelessness crisis is “beyond the control of normal services” of the city government. “
In her conclusion, Carter said that for all the government statements of success that are fed to us, the citizens themselves see the heart-wrenching misery of the homeless and the degradation of their city and county. Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks and freeways due to inaction by city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn.
All the rhetoric, promises, plans and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis – this year after year there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year more homeless Angelenos. shelter die on the street, ”Carter wrote.
County officials estimate that several thousand people currently live on the streets of Skid Row. According to the Homeless Services Authority, 1,441 people in the region were temporarily sheltered last year.
LA Alliance lawyers wrote that Skid Row is a “city and county created disaster” in which the city adopted a “physical containment” policy whereby the poor, the disabled and the mentally ill would be “confined” within the demarcated borders of Skid Line.
Over the past year, with federal courthouses closed or not fully operational due to the coronavirus pandemic, Carter has held emergency hearings in places such as City Hall from Los Angeles and a women’s shelter in Skid Row.
“There is no doubt that the city and county will feel that such an order diminishes their powers,” the LA Alliance said in a statement, noting that it would seek a preliminary injunction. “However, in the absence of a consensual agreement between the parties, the intervention of the court becomes necessary.”
The LA Alliance said that after many conferences and settlement discussions, “it is clear that local governments cannot / do not want to address the problem adequately. The courts must play a more active role. “
Nine days after the lawsuit was filed last year, the parties stayed the litigation with the intention of exploring a settlement “and laying the groundwork for a comprehensive solution in the city and county of LA,” said the complainants.
The proposed solutions got bogged down in bureaucratic harassment between city and county, prompting Carter to consider how he could deploy the power of the Federal Court to speed up efforts to clear city sidewalks and to place the homeless in housing.