Bipartisan group of city leaders back legislation that would help eradicate “the single greatest threat” to the state
Mayors from 11 of the most populous cities in California have banded together to introduce a bill that would allocate $1.5 billion of state funds to address the growing homeless crisis across the state.
The bill, AB 3171, would also require cities to match the states’ contribution, establishing a $3 billion fund that would be spent on affordable housing, temporary shelters, outreach and support services for the homeless.
In the last few years, homelessness has surged across the state. According to 2017 data from the state, California had 135,000 homeless people (the most of any state), which measures to about a quarter of the nation’s homeless population. Although there was a 15 percent decrease in the homeless population, the state saw a 2.1 percent increase from 2015.
The request from the mayoral team — which includes Democrats and Republicans — was sent in the form of a letter to California State President Pro Tempore Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
“Homelessness is the single biggest quality of life challenge we face in our cities, and cities cannot do it alone,” Steinberg said at a press conference at the State Capitol on Wednesday, February 21. “As our partners at the statehouse think about how to direct new resources to combat the problem, we plant a flag to say, ‘Please send a significant amount of this money through cities because we know what works.’ There is no secret … to what is needed to make an impact on homelessness.”
Steinberg is joined by the mayors of San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Los Angeles.
If signed, AB 3171 would make an impact on the state’s homelessness problem which plagues the greater LA area in particular.
“Cities are first responders in this crisis, and we are leveraging every possible resource to get people off the street and into homes. But we need help,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. This bill would provide emergency bridge housing and services to help people with their most urgent needs so that they can begin rebuilding their lives with the dignity that everyone deserves.”
Notorious for its growing homelessness epidemic, LA is home to a quarter of the state’s entire homeless population. If the bill passes, LA would receive $382 million from the state; if the city matches that, it would receive a total of $764 million in homeless service funding, according to data from the LA Mayor’s office.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines homelessness in two categories: unsheltered, those whose primary residences are a public or private space not meant to be sleeping quarters for humans, and sheltered, those who temporarily live in public or private shelters.
The LA Homeless Services Authority found that in 2017, the LA County had more than 57,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night, which is a 23 percent increase from 2016. More than 4,800 of those individuals are military veterans and more than 8,500 of those individuals are in families.
The statistics are staggering and the city has made efforts to alleviate the problem. In 2016, Measure HHH passed in the city which called for the $1.2 billion funding for permanent supportive housing for the city’s homeless.
Last week, construction on a new seven-story housing complex in Skid Row went underway. The complex will include four floors of housing and a three-story medical facility, according to Skid Row Housing Trust, which is developing the project.
The first project funded by Measure HHH began construction in December 2017 in East Hollywood and will provide 122 new units of supportive housing.
Orange County, in recent years, saw a staggering growth of its homeless population, most notably through encampments along the Santa Ana River Trail adjacent to the 57 freeway.
In January, homeless advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court in January after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department ordered to remove all the encampments in that 2-mile stretch near Angel Stadium which housed between 500 to 1,000 people.
Though the county has offered the homeless community rides to temporary shelters and storage, advocates on behalf of the homeless have said there aren’t enough shelter units and options appropriate for couples and those suffering from mental illnesses.
The lawsuit alleges that Orange County and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa have not done enough to alleviate the homeless situation in the county and, further, have made it “impossible” for these individuals to occupy public spaces without violating anti-loitering laws.
“They were being stopped for no reason other than being homeless. They were receiving citations for unavoidable acts like sleeping outside or carrying luggage,” said Brooke Weitzman, an attorney with Elder Law and the Disability Rights Center, who filed the lawsuit with two private firms. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)