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Federal Court Strikes Down Judge's Order To Provide Housing To All Skid Row Homeless

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A federal appeals court Thursday vacated a Los Angeles judge's order that would have required the city and county of L.A. to provide housing to all homeless people living on Skid Row by next month.

Skid Row homeless
Entire blocks are packed with homeless encampments on Skid row in downtown Los Angeles on April 21, 2021. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

In April, in response to an ongoing lawsuit over the homeless crisis, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter issued a mandatory injunction ordering the city and county to offer housing to all homeless people in downtown L.A.'s Skid Row within six months.

A panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case in July, and on Thursday, issued its ruling in which it determined that the lower court had "abused its discretion" because it didn't have authority to issue an injunction based on claims not pled in the complaint brought last year by a coalition of downtown business owners and residents of the Skid Row area against the county and city of L.A.

Carter's ruling had required that all homeless inhabitants of Skid Row must be offered some form of shelter by Oct. 18, beginning with single women and unaccompanied children.

Both the city and county immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals.

The L.A. Alliance, a group of downtown business owners and homeless residents, brought the lawsuit against the city and county in March 2020 alleging there has been a lack of action from local officials to protect the homeless from COVID-19. During more than a dozen federal court hearings, the lawsuit has become bogged down in bureaucratic snarls between the city and county, prompting Carter to consider how he might deploy the power of the federal court to speed up efforts to get city sidewalks cleared and place homeless people into housing.

"The fact that that's not going to happen is certainly disappointing, and it's a speed bump, and maybe it slows things down, but it in no way is a roadblock," said Elizabeth Mitchell with the L.A. Alliance.

While officials disagreed with the L.A. Alliance on the solution, they acknowledge that the growing number of unhoused people on city streets is an urgent problem.

"We won an important victory today, but the fact is, L.A. is still in the grips of a homelessness crisis," LA City Attorney Mike Feuer told CBSLA Thursday.

"It shouldn't be the lawsuit that moves us," Feuer added. "It should be the crisis on our streets that does, and it's about time."

Mitchell said the L.A. Alliance will keep pushing the city to provide immediate shelter, mental health and drug treatment and safer public spaces. She insisted there is still a way forward for advocates.

"The order left the pathway wide open for us to keep moving with this and keep fighting and keep holding the city and county accountable," Mitchell said. "So, in that regard, we're thrilled,"

Mitchell said the L.A. Alliance is confident it will be able to make changes to its complaint and return to court in a few weeks to make its case.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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