In response to a lawsuit filed by several business owners and citizens in Los Angeles regarding the problems caused by the rise in homelessness in the area, a judge has ordered that the city and county offer all homeless people on Skid Row housing by the fall.
In a 110-page brief submitted on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David Carter outlined the problems of homelessness and included extensive discussion about its connection to racism. “Through redlining, containment, eminent domain, exclusionary zoning, and gentrification—designed to segregate and disenfranchise communities of color—the City and County of Los Angeles created a legacy of entrenched structural racism. As shown most clearly in the present crisis of homelessness, the effects of structural racism continue to threaten the lives of people of color in Los Angeles,” Carter wrote.
The brief also included the history of the neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles that came to be known as “Skid Row.” Carter included references to Abraham Lincoln and quotes from the 16th President of the United States in his brief, as well.
Among other actions, Carter ordered:
Within no more than 90 days (i.e., on or before July 19, 2021), the City and County must offer and if accepted provide shelter or housing immediately to all unaccompanied women and children living in Skid Row; within 120 days (i.e., on or before August 18, 2021) to all families living in Skid Row; and within 180 days (i.e., on or before October 18, 2021) to the general population living in Skid Row.
The county is also required to “offer and if accepted provide to all individuals within Skid Row who are in need of special placement through the Department of Mental Health or Department of Public Health appropriate emergency, interim, or permanent housing and treatment services” within 90 days.
The order also states that the “City and County shall prepare a plan that ensures the uplifting and enhancement of Skid Row without involuntarily displacing current residents to other parts of the City or County. Moving forward, the City and County are encouraged to develop a hyper-local approach with community-based organizations throughout each district, including the Skid Row Advisory Council.”
The county is also required to “provide, or fund third parties to provide, support services to all homeless residents who accept the offer of housing.”
Carter pointed out, “California’s homeless population has steadily risen since 2007. The sharpest increase took place over the last two years, marking a 24.3% increase from 2018 to 2020.” He added that there are multiple health and safety issues that stem from homelessness including the escalation of fires, increased risk of homeless deaths, and mental health issues. He wrote, “Over the past two decades, Los Angeles hospitals have paid substantial civil penalties for ‘patient dumping’ mentally disabled homeless individuals in Skid Row. Videos of mentally ill patients in hospital gowns dropped at Skid Row incited outrage.”
Carter called out specific politicians, saying that they have known of the problems that homelessness causes for a long time. Carter wrote, “Elected officials at both the state and local level have long been aware of L.A.’s urgent homelessness crisis. In recent court filings, the County of Los Angeles called homelessness ‘an extraordinarily complex problem that demands a multi-faceted approach and active, sustained collaboration’ among government officials…And yet, City and County officials are content to pay soundbite lip service instead of declaring an emergency and taking steps to correct the problems that plague their communities.”
Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti spoke of his budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Monday, which includes plans to use close to $1 billion in order to combat the homelessness problem in California. Carter addressed this in his court order, as well, ordering “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow forthwith, with funding streams accounted for and reported to the Court within 7 days.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for the city attorney’s office, said Tuesday that lawyers for the city are looking over the order. Wilcox declined to say anything else.
Skip Miller, partner at the Miller Barondess law firm, is outside counsel for the county in the lawsuit. Miller said the county is “now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal.”