LOS ANGELES (CN) – A group of California politicians began a campaign for $1.5 billion to tackle the state’s growing homelessness crisis Monday morning at downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, where people sleeping in tents lined the streets.
This past week, 11 California mayors joined state legislators in introducing an assembly bill that would take $1.5 billion from the state’s budget surplus for shelter, rapid and permanent supportive housing and other initiatives. That would account for 25 percent of the state’s $6 billion surplus, according to authors of the bill.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill which would create the Local Homelessness Solutions Program and a state account to provide funding to cities “to create innovative and immediate solutions to the problems caused by homelessness.”
The authors of the bill say it is a bipartisan effort, but supporters will trek across the state to sell the proposal to constituents. Assembly Bill 3171 will be deliberated through the state’s budget process.
If approved by state legislators, cities who receive that funding will have to match the money to bring the total investment to combat homelessness in California to $3 billion.
On Monday, co-author Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, called the situation on Skid Row a humanitarian crisis.
“What we’re doing today is one big bold step, an infusion of money that we’re proposing, the steroids that we need to kick off the improvement of Skid Row and other areas like that in the state of California,” said Santiago, whose district includes downtown Los Angeles and Skid Row.
Despite voter approved tax initiatives that go to fund affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles, and ongoing services for shelters, affordable housing ordinances for transitional housing and outreach to the homeless population, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said it is not enough.
There is a lack of planning between city and county officials, said Garcetti. Cohesion on affordable housing is something that could address the approximately 2,000 people who sleep daily on the streets of Skid Row.
“Yes, the city is getting to work. I get asked all the time, do neighborhoods want this housing?” said Garcetti, who was joined by Santiago and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, at the James M. Wood Community Center in downtown Los Angeles.
He called the disparity between the homeless population and other facets of Los Angeles, like its world-class restaurants and universities, unacceptable.
“LA shouldn’t be judged on the nicest cars we’re inventing or building, but should be who is still sleeping in the car tonight,” said Garcetti, who was one of the 11 mayors at the state capital the week prior to support the bill.
According to a 2017 homeless count data, 25 percent of the state’s homeless population reside in Los Angeles.
Across the street from the press conference Penny Sue Davis, who has lived on Skid Row for over 30 years but became homeless in December 2017, said it’s difficult for someone like her to find housing.
“I have (multiple sclerosis), hip problems, but they have problems finding me a place,” said Davis. “It hurts, because I don’t know how to get out of here now.”
She would like to see more caseworkers to help homeless people dealing with addiction, mental health problems and other barriers that keep them from finding housing.
"I want to know where is the money going? Where is the help?" Davis asked.