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Los Angeles agrees to spend $3 billion to house homeless residents

The money would pay for up to 16,000 beds over the next five years, while more than 41,000 people currently live on the streets.
Bobby Rojas smokes on Skid Row
Bobby Rojas smokes in his tent amid a homeless encampment on Skid Row in Los Angeles on Sept. 23.Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles has agreed to spend up to $3 billion over the next five years to house some of its 41,000 residents who are homeless, according to a proposed settlement announced Friday.

The city has also agreed to create enough shelter to accommodate 60 percent of homeless people in each of the 15 council districts. Those who are considered chronically homeless or who have a chronic illness would remain the county's responsibility.

The settlement stems from a complaint filed in 2020 by a group of business owners, residents and community leaders that accused city and county officials of failing to address the desperate circumstances homeless people face, including hunger, crime, squalor and the coronavirus pandemic.

Litigation involving the county and the group, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, remains ongoing.

Under the settlement, which must be approved by the council, the city would spend $2.4 billion to $3 billion over the next five years to provide 14,000 to 16,000 beds.

“We have families living in tents, women fleeing domestic violence sleeping in parks, people clearly struggling with mental illness walking our streets alone at night,” City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement.

She added that the county must to do its part by providing mental health care, substance misuse treatment and outpatient rehab beds.

Last year, U.S. District Judge David Carter ordered Los Angeles city and county to find shelter for all unhoused residents on Skid Row within 180 days and audit its spending on homeless services.

In a fiery 110-page order, Carter slammed officials’ inability to restrain the unprecedented growth of homelessness, which has led to encampments spreading 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,” he wrote in granting a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs.

City leaders have said the impetus to solve the region's homelessness crisis falls to the county, while attorneys representing the county have repeatedly said the lawsuit has "no merit."

"The County is more than doing its job and doing everything possible to address homelessness without stigmatizing it as a crime," said Skip Miller, outside counsel for Los Angeles County, in an emailed statement. "Any assertion that the County has failed on this obligation is utterly baseless."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors struck a softer tone after Friday's announcement, saying in a statement that "the county will continue to use its resources to support people experiencing homelessness within the area of Los Angeles that is the subject of this lawsuit."

The back-and-forth between county and city officials has become emblematic of a crisis that continues to plague California's largest cities. The state pours billions of dollars into alleviating homelessness, while experts warn that thousands of people living on the streets could die before enough housing is found.

In response to the proposed settlement, Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon said the city was left with "two choices" as the county continued to fight the lawsuit.

"When it became clear that our partners at the county were not interested in collaborating, we were left with two choices: We could ride the litigation merry-go-around while people live and die on our streets or cut our own pathway forward to help as many people as possible," he said.

"We decided to lead because it isn't our job as city leaders to play nice, country club politics with anyone," he added.