Business & Economy

LA homelessness: City, county vote for fixes. Now what?

File: A homeless woman pushes her cart full of belongings along a street in LA.
File: A homeless woman pushes her cart full of belongings along a street in LA.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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With homelessness growing in L.A., county and city lawmakers on Tuesday coordinated to pass sprawling new plans to tackle the problem.

Supporters of the plans say they represent the most comprehensive blueprints toward fixing homelessness in at least a decade--calling for everything from more storage for homeless people's belongings to a strategy for how to house the most needy Angelenos quickly. But officials acknowledged that finding funding to execute the plans will be a challenge.

Officials with the City of L.A. have pledged a so-far abstract $100 million toward homelessness, but have  found and allocated a little over $12 million to date. Whether the remaining dollars can be found will become more clear when Mayor Eric Garcetti issues his budget in the coming months. 

"The key to whether the city is committed to this or not is when the mayor's budget is announced and voted upon by the City Council," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who co-chairs the city's Committee on Homelessness and Poverty.

A recent report by city analysts that found that $100 million is actually a drop in the bucket. The long-term cost of addressing homelessness in Los Angeles is much steeper: at least $1.85 billion over ten years. Some city council members have said the city will need to consider putting a tax or bond measure in front of voters. 

The County of Los Angeles, helmed by the Board of Supervisors, is deeper-pocketed. The board has already set aside $150 million to put toward strategies such as housing subsidies and improved case management. But supervisors acknowledge their long-term strategy must also go beyond a one-time cash infusion.

"It becomes a question of leadership of how we pursue this on a sustainable path," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl called the board's unanimous vote embracing the blueprint "a promise that we will devote the resources, the time, the energy the heart, the understanding and not only that, but a long-term commitment."

Gerald Thompson, who runs a shelter in South Los Angeles for homeless teens called Pathways to your Future, wondered where lawmakers will find the money.

"I don’t know," Thompson said, laughing. "All I know is that I’m optimistic. The buzz is out there, that (homelessness) is going on and people are paying attention to it."

He said a positive change from previous pledges is that the plans address all homeless populations, not just groups that are typically prioritized such as veterans. He said running one of the only shelters for transitional youth in the county, any help will be welcome.