LOS ANGELES (CN) – The city of Los Angeles will convert a city-owned parking lot into a temporary homeless shelter in response to the growing homeless crisis across the region, but city officials also agreed Wednesday to update existing construction and review standards to speed up the construction of long-term supportive housing.
In 2016, over 70 percent of Los Angeles residents approved a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund construction of supportive housing and homeless services. City leaders have pledged to build 3,330 housing units across the city by 2020, and in reaction to the growing homeless crisis, the officials have set the ambitious goal of building 10,000 housing units in the next decade.
The immediate crisis cannot be pushed aside any longer, said Councilman Mike Bonin at a Homeless and Poverty Committee meeting.
Los Angeles will convert a parking lot into a temporary shelter space near the oldest quarter in downtown, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, for a three-year period. That will include trailer housing for a group of 60 to 70 people on a rotating basis.
“We have to have alternatives to encampments,” Bonin said about the tents lining streets across the city.
At the committee meeting, Bonin said to city officials, “I want to report back immediately and say, ‘What can we do to get people off the sidewalks and into someplace warmer, somewhat safer?’”
The aim is to decentralize the supportive housing projects out of downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles will also update existing building standards to convert more structures into shelter space.
The homeless crisis is not unique to downtown’s Skid Row, where some 2,000 people sleep on the streets daily. The homeless population across Los Angeles County grew by 23 percent from 46,874 in 2016 to 57,794 in 2017, according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.
In a recent year-end report on homelessness, the Los Angeles Police Department detailed a rise in misdemeanor arrests and citations. The storage of personal property and sleeping on sidewalks made up many of those citations, said the report summarizing 2017 data for LAPD and homeless outreach workers.
The Los Angeles Times said LAPD leaders called its tactics “a balanced approach” and “a last resort.”
John Maceri of The People Concern, a nonprofit homeless services agency, said this is an issue that’s not going to go away.
“I feel like residents have done their part and they want elected officials to do their part. This is not something that is going to fall off the radar,” Maceri said, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting.
There has been a tectonic shift in the homeless crisis in the last year, Maceri said.
“It’s no longer confined to certain parts of the community or in pockets of the county.”