LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to declare a shelter crisis, in a move toward providing temporary public housing for the city's homeless.
"I think that we have sent a message that we are serious about this and today's actions are a very important step in the right direction," council president Herb Wesson said just before the vote.
Five motions on the council's calendar included proposals to provide storage facilities and services for the homeless, define attended and unattended property to reduce criminal sanctions against homeless people who leave belongings on sidewalks, and the creation of a homelessness czar.
The vote comes after the council in September declared a state of emergency and said it would commit $100 million in one-time funding to help the city's 26,000 homeless people. An additional item on Tuesday's calendar will allow the city to create an account and spending plan for those funds.
All five motions passed 14-0.
Ahead of Tuesday's vote, the City Attorney's Office said in supporting documents that a "local" emergency was limited but not unprecedented. In the late 1980s, cold weather led to the city creating an emergency campground for the homeless in downtown LA.
With the threat of El Nino looming, Councilman Mike Bonin's motion to declare a shelter crisis sought an amendment to the city's municipal code to provide temporary shelter.
LA provides emergency shelter for the homeless during the winter months from November to March but the declaration on Tuesday will extend shelter into the spring.
Another measure in the same motion paves the way for a Safe Parking Program, which provides overnight spots for families and individuals living out of RVs and other vehicles.
Bonin's motion was approved as amended to include an opt-in program for council districts.
During public comment, LA residents testified about the dangers of living close to homeless encampments that are havens for drugs and crime.
Bonin said after the vote that more needs to be done to provide shelter, rental subsidies and housing for the homeless.
"Whether you come at this from a matter of conscience that we need to do better for people living on the street, or whether you come at it from a perspective of neighborhood quality of life - that we should not have encampments outside people's homes or their kids' schools - we need to be doing the same things. We need to be providing alternatives to living on the streets until we have provided sufficient housing for everybody," Bonin said.
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