Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared that levels of homelessness in the city are so severe it constitutes a "state of emergency" and has called for $100m to be spent in the next year to help the 26,000 people officially estimated to be sleeping rough.
Every single day we come to work, we see folks lying on this grass, a symbol of our city’s intense crisis– Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor
Garcetti also announced a short-term strategy to secure an extra $13m in emergency funding to get people, particularly veterans, into housing.
The mayor and seven city councillors announced the plan on Tuesday, 22 September, signalling alarm at the 12% rise in homelessness since Garcetti took office in 2013.
The mayor wants an annual $100m investment to fund permanent housing for the homeless and to establish an institutional foundation to tackle homelessness in the future.
"Every single day we come to work, we see folks lying on this grass, a symbol of our city’s intense crisis," Garcetti told a news conference on Tuesday.
"This city has pushed this problem from neighbourhood to neighbourhood for too long, from bureaucracy to bureaucracy."
Some 26,000 people are living rough in Los Angeles
The initiative, which still has to win council approval, may also allow the city to ease restrictions on churches and non-profit groups from sheltering the homeless.
Councilman Mike Bonin, whose Westside district is home to street encampments, told the LA Times that there was a "collective failure of every level of government to deal with what has been a homeless crisis for generations and is exploding and exacerbating now".
The LA Times pointed out that the concerned councillors had not identified all the sources for the $100m, or identified how it would be used.
"This is all simply words," Mark Ryavec, president of campaign group the Venice Stakeholders Association, told the newspaper. "Again, it shows an ongoing lack of leadership on behalf of the city."
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti with a north Hollywood restaurant owner
In July the mayor declared a "war on homelessness" at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 69-unit housing project near LA’s infamous Skid Row.
He said a plan would follow in about a month, but on Tuesday the mayor’s office stated only that the plan would be based on three "pillars": which were increasing housing and housing subsidies, enforcing the $15/hour minimum wage, and providing more services such as showers and storage, for the homeless.
Homelessness in the city has risen 12% in the past two years, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, overwhelming the available shelters.
As a result there has been an 85% increase in the number of makeshift shelters appearing in public spaces such as underpasses.
Top image: Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row (Stephen Zeigler/Wikimedia Commons)