Judge orders LA to offer shelter for homeless on Skid Row


LOS ANGELES — A federal judge overseeing a sweeping lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles on Tuesday ordered the city and county to find shelter for all unhoused residents of Skid Row within 180 days and audit any spending related to the out-of-control crisis of people living on the streets.

In a fiery 110-page preliminary injunction, Judge David O. Carter slammed officials’ inability to restrain the unprecedented growth of homelessness that has seen encampments spread into nearly every neighborhood in the region.

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” Carter wrote.

The judge’s order was released a day after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to spend nearly $1 billion in the coming year to get people off the streets. Carter on Tuesday ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow,” with a spending plan “accounted for and reported to the Court within seven days.”

In addition, Carter ordered the city auditor to examine all public money spent in recent years to combat homelessness, including funds from a 2016 bond measure approved by voters to create 10,000 housing units over a decade.

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 people in Los Angeles County, with 41,000 within LA city limits. While the homeless population was once largely confined to the notorious Skid Row neighborhood in downtown, rows of tents, cardboard shelters, battered RVs and makeshift plywood structures are now familiar sights throughout the nation’s second-most populous city.

Carter ordered the city and county to find shelter for all single women and unaccompanied children on Skid Row within 90 days, and every homeless person in the downtown area must have a place to stay by Oct. 18.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office said it was reviewing the preliminary injunction and couldn’t immediately comment. County officials didn’t immediately comment.

The lawsuit was filed last year by a group of business owners, residents and community leaders called the LA Alliance for Human Rights. It accuses the city and county of failing to comprehensively address the desperation that homeless people face — including hunger, crime, squalor and the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year Carter called all parties to a hearing outside a Skid Row shelter and said that if politicians can’t provide solutions, he would explore what powers the court has to order and oversee remedies.

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