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Housing and Homelessness

LA County Wants Out Of Big Federal Homelessness Lawsuit

Skid Row. (James Bernal for KPCC)
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Los Angeles County says it shouldn’t be the target of a big federal lawsuit over the local homelessness crisis. The county is asking to be dropped from the litigation, which would leave the city of L.A. as the sole defendant.

That’s the essence of a motion filed today asking U.S. District Judge David Carter to dismiss the county from the lawsuit filed in March 2020 by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of Skid Row businesses and homeowners.

The case seeks to force the city and county to act much more aggressively to house the unhoused, claiming both governments have created dangerous conditions on the streets by mismanaging taxpayer money meant to shelter people experiencing homelessness.

The motion makes several arguments; for one, it maintains the county is only responsible for unincorporated areas, not Skid Row, a focus of the suit that lies within the city limits. It notes that the plaintiffs allege the city — and some recent federal court orders involving the city — are responsible for the growth of the Skid Row population — not the county.

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The motion also claims that court is the wrong place to tackle the issue.

“Complex policy questions about how to address homelessness must be resolved by the County’s elected governing body, the Board of Supervisors,” it says.

The county’s motion is disappointing but not surprising, said Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney for the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights.

“Here you have the county, again, routinely denying their role in causing this crisis,” she said. “The county has a real opportunity here to partner with the city, with the community, with the federal court, with us, and instead they’re just playing old games.”

In response to a request for comment, the county issued a statement saying it's "in full agreement that an urgent solution to address the homelessness crisis is necessary," while reiterating the arguments it made in the motion.

Last summer, the city and county jointly agreed to add 6,700 shelter beds as part of the lawsuit. That represented goodwill and collaboration, Mitchell said, which she believes is now deteriorating.

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