Dear Community Members,
This week, the Los Angeles City Council took a significant step in considering how we both engage unhoused homeless individuals and promote public health, safety and access to public spaces.
The City of Los Angeles continues to face a homeless crisis – with over 41,000 homeless people living in our City, of which 28,000 are unhoused. My number one focus as a City Councilmember is to address this moral crisis. I believe that only when government is obliged to offer our unhoused residents timely access to suitable interim and permanent housing, and the support services they need to get back on their feet and thrive long-term, will we make sufficient progress. For this reason, I have focused on establishing a Right to Housing in the City of Los Angeles, and am pleased that the City Council has unanimously supported this effort.
I fundamentally believe that in order to address homelessness – and particularly street homelessness – we must lead with a trauma-informed perspective. Trained outreach workers from experienced community-based nonprofits must take the lead in engaging our unhoused individuals. Bringing people indoors can take time, and there is no one-size fits all solution for individuals that have lost everything.
I also understand that the conditions on the streets of Los Angeles have led to significant challenges that can impact the quality of life of Angelenos. We are seeing an unprecedented level of fires involving homeless encampments, and far too many unhoused individuals are killed by vehicle incidents each year. Not every public space is a safe space for those who are forced to sleep outside.
As I seek to balance these concerns, I recognize that the status quo is insufficient. In response, I co-authored a motion that sought to do the following:
• Ensure that the City has the ability to keep the public right of way clear, in compliance with ADA requirements and to address any imminent public safety issue; and
• Allow the City, only after a resolution is passed by the City Council, location by location, and 14 day notice is provided, to prohibit encampments around “sensitive uses”, including schools, preschools and day care facilities, as well as in areas where there has been a threat to public safety due to fires, violent crime or other hazardous conditions.
There are two fundamental conditions that ground this work. First and foremost, the City must implement – within 30 days – a Street Engagement Strategy that connects unhoused individuals to suitable housing and services options before any enforcement occurs.
Secondly, in no way should this effort seek to further marginalize or stigmatize the homeless. In fact, the Council provided direction to limit the use of law enforcement and adopt alternative strategies – including interventionists and conflict resolution experts – to promote compliance.
The bottom line is that we seek not to marginalize or stigmatize people experiencing homelessness. We have taken great care to ensure that the implementing ordinance has been designed to avoid compounding the plight of the unhoused by subjecting them to the criminal justice system. No one should go to jail due to the fact that they have been sleeping on the street.
While we can all agree that the status quo is untenable – I think we can also agree that there are right ways and wrong ways to disrupt the status quo and improve conditions on the street in a manner that prioritizes the humanity of our unhoused neighbors. The proposal that has been advanced seeks to move us in a direction that seeks not just compliance, but compassion.
As we move forward, my office welcomes your feedback on how we can continue to engage and drive solutions that improve the quality of life for all Angelenos, both housed and unhoused.
Councilmember, Tenth District
Chair, Homelessness and Poverty Committee