LA City Council approves $50 million emergency fund for Mayor Bass’ homeless initiative

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — In a show of support for Mayor Karen Bass’s efforts to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, the city council on Wednesday voted to create and transfer $50 million to an emergency fund for the mayor to use at her discretion.

The funding, passed by a vote of 13-0, would go to Bass’ Inside Safe Initiative, which aims to bring camp residents indoors.

“We’re in this crisis right now and we want the mayor to succeed,” Councilor Bob Blumenfield said. “We want to do everything we can. While it’s a lot of money, it’s actually just a drop in the bucket of what is needed and needed for the emergency response.”

The money will help pay for hotels, staff augmentations and outreach vendors immediately, according to Matt Szabo, the city’s administrator. Szabo said without access to the emergency funds, the city would be unable to pay vendors on time.

“The program alerted us to the need to have an account with flexible dollars that can be spent quickly without having to go through the standard process of appropriation by this body,” Szabo said.

Council last month approved Bass’s declaration of emergency on homelessness, which is assessed monthly against several indicators of progress, including the number of camps and housing options and how much more flexibility the declaration will give city governments.

The declaration is scheduled for six months.

The San Francisco gallerist was filmed hose-spraying a homeless man charged with misdemeanor

Of the $50 million, $26.5 million would come from a general fund account for homeless services and the remaining $23.5 million from funds previously earmarked for COVID-19 response.

The council voted last month to end the city’s local state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of the month, with a motion from Council President Paul Krekorian noting that it is “appropriate to close this account and use the funds to others.” emergency purposes.”

Mercedes Marquez, the mayor’s head of housing and homelessness solutions, said the dedicated funding will help the city attract more service providers and increase its outreach to camp residents. The goal of the declaration of emergency is to take steps to institutionalize a solution rather than launch pilot programs.

“We’re not going to get to something that has more enduring value and results by continuing to pilot,” Marquez said.

City officials said the funding will also help Los Angeles meet its needs as part of an expected settlement with the LA Alliance for Human Rights, which sued the city and county in 2020, accusing them of not doing enough to help address the homeless crisis.

The council also called for weekly updates from various city governments on outreach and other metrics related to homelessness on Wednesday. The Council also receives bi-weekly reports on transactions and results of funds provided by the Emergency Account and is updated every 45 days on the progress of the Inside Safe Initiative.

“The state of emergency will not be a permanent state of emergency,” Krekorian said. “We will use this emergency phase to create solutions that will become lasting solutions.”

Councilwoman Nithya Raman, chair of the council’s housing and homelessness committee, said any programs developed during the state of emergency “must be anchored in city policies going forward”. She hoped for solutions that would allow city governments to address homelessness in non-emergency circumstances without “undermining traditional oversight.”

The last time a mayor declared a local homelessness-related emergency was in 1987, when Mayor Tom Bradley cited the impact of winter weather on people experiencing homelessness, according to the statement. The conditions are now, according to the statement, “even worse”.

According to the latest count at any given time, there are an estimated 41,980 homeless people in the city of Los Angeles, a 1.7% increase from 2020.

According to Bass’ office, the Inside Safe Initiative will work to identify the “highest need camps” that have chronic and high service needs under the policy. Using citywide coordination between various departments and agencies, the action plan calls for the identification of temporary housing and eventually permanent housing options for each person living in the camps.

Bass’ first policy to streamline project approval requires municipalities to complete all reviews and issue approvals for 100% affordable housing projects within 60 days. Once construction begins, the utility permitting and occupancy permitting process must be completed within five days for affordable housing units and two days for temporary housing.

City Controller Kenneth Mejia supported the Council’s decision and plans to create a dashboard to track the progress of the Inside Safe Initiative. Mejia told the council that he would highlight the resources available and include “monitoring the path of unplaced community members from temporary to permanent placement.”

“Our goals must focus on durable shelters and empowering people to stay indoors,” Mejia said.

Raman said she was excited to see representatives from the mayor’s office and the city controller all in the council chamber to discuss the issue.

“Feels like a new day,” she said.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

Copyright © 2023 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. LA City Council approves $50 million emergency fund for Mayor Bass’ homeless initiative

Laura Coffey

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