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Housing and Homelessness

The City Agreed On A Settlement To Shelter Unhoused People. Will That Be Enough Help?

tents line the sidewalk along 5th street on a sunny day in Downtown Los Angeles. In the distance is the L.A. skyline.
A lawyer for L.A. Alliance said the city of L.A. doesn't have the infrastructure to meet the housing or service needs of unhoused people suffering from severe drug addiction or mental illnesses and needs the county's participation to address it.
(Ethan Ward
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The city of L.A. reached an agreement last Friday over a two-year lawsuit that demanded it to shelter unhoused people, although it still has to be signed off by a judge.

Under the settlement, the city will provide beds over the next five years in each council district for 60% of the city’s unsheltered residents. Much of the emphasis from the city is ensuring the county of L.A. meets its obligations to unhoused people in the city. Those obligations include, in part:

  • Increasing the number of unhoused outreach teams exclusively in the city
  • Increasing the number of drug rehabilitation and detox beds in the city for people experiencing homelessness regardless of insurance coverage
  • Providing housing and treatment services for unhoused people not appropriate for city shelters

The suit was initially brought by the L.A. Alliance and eight individual plaintiffs against the county and city of L.A., alleging they were moving too slowly to get people off the streets and into housing. The L.A. Alliance included current and formerly unhoused residents of Skid Row, business and property owners, and a real estate professional who had interests in the downtown neighborhood.

Skip Miller, partner of the Miller Barondess law firm and outside counsel for L.A. County in the LA Alliance lawsuit, said in a statement the lawsuit had no merit with regard to the county and it was between the plaintiffs and the city of L.A.

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“The County is more than doing its job and doing everything possible to address homelessness without stigmatizing it as a crime,” the statement read. “Any assertion that the County has failed on this obligation is utterly baseless. Unlike the lawsuit, which focuses on four miles of downtown LA, the County is obligated by law to use its resources equitably among all 88 cities and unincorporated areas within the 4,000 square miles of its jurisdiction.”

City council members have conducted ongoing outreach in their districts in order to connect unhoused people with shelter and permanent supportive housing. Which begs the question: if the county feels they are doing its job, will anything change?

Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney for the L.A. Alliance said this settlement will make a difference because it will significantly increase shelter offers to unhoused people living on the streets, many of whom aren’t suffering from severe drug addiction or mental health issues.

Mitchell did express concern about the county not stepping up to address those who are.

“The most visible folks in crisis are going to be higher acuity and be the county's responsibility,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, without the county's participation, we aren’t going to be able to address it because the city isn't set up infrastructure wise to address folks in that capacity. Look at the crisis on the street. It's just clear that what the county is doing is insufficient and they’re not helping the most vulnerable people.”

A spokesperson for L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman said in an email the settlement doesn’t affect their approach to combating the homelessness crisis within their district.

“The Councilmember and our Homelessness Team work every day connecting unhoused constituents with needed resources and creating new shelter and housing opportunities for as many residents of our district as possible,” said the spokesperson. “Our hope is that this settlement will result in more housing resources to enable us to continue effectively doing this work.”

A spokesperson for L.A. City Councilmember Nury Martinez said once the settlement is approved by Judge Carter, it will go before the city council for a vote.