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High-rise tower in downtown LA will house people experiencing homelessness

High-rise tower opens its doors to house homeless residents
High-rise tower opens its doors to house homeless residents 02:54

A new high-rise apartment building in downtown Los Angeles will house people who have dealt with long-term struggles with homelessness, the latest effort to tackle a citywide epidemic that's grown worse over the years.

With 228 studios and 50 fully furnished one-bedroom apartments, the building has amenities including heating and air conditioning, a fitness center, a computer lab, laundry facilities, a career center, a library and terraces with community gardens. It's the latest housing project using government funds to house unsheltered people in Los Angeles, with much of its development funded by Proposition HHH, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said at the opening ceremony. That proposition was first approved by voters in 2016. 

Housing projects being built with funding from Proposition HHH, such as this latest one, have cost anywhere from $450,000 to nearly $837,000 per unit, according to a 2022 report from the Los Angeles City Controller. The city has put more than $1.1 billion in HHH funding toward these housing projects, the report says.

The new development, called Weingart Tower 1, will also offer services such as assistance with finding employment and education, counseling on finances and budgeting, health and wellness classes and events and on-site community events led by so-called "resident service coordinators." The project was developed by the Weingart Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit founded in 1982.

Kevin Murray, a retired state senator who leads Weingart as its CEO, gave an opening speech at the building's unveiling Wednesday. He said 52 people had already been signed off to lease apartments there.

"This is not just a building," Murray said. "This is about people and this is about giving people dignity... everybody deserves a good, well-designed environment."

Between 2022 and 2023, the city's homeless population rose by 10% with an estimated 46,260 people experiencing homelessness as of the latest count. That number was released nearly a year ago in late June 2023. Meanwhile, the county's homeless population grew by 9% during the same period to 75,518, according to the latest data. 

Some of the city's efforts at housing its growing homeless population have been met with backlash — both from critics who say they're too costly and from those why say they're ineffective and don't actually give people long-term housing.

Even advocates of the homeless have criticized Bass's "Inside Safe" initiative, which works to get people out of encampments on the street and into temporary housing. In late May, activists rallied outside the mayor's home, the sprawling Getty House in Windsor Square, where one activist claimed the program "revolves around people a cycle of people getting displaced and moving shelters."

Later that same day, Bass led an "Inside Safe" operation at an encampment in Hollywood, where 30 people were moved out of the collection of tents and into temporary housing. 

Supporters of the mayor's initiatives have said the growing number of homeless people isn't just the city's fault.

"The key reason our homeless numbers are going up is because more people are falling into homelessness," Stephanie Klasky Gamer, CEO of Los Angeles Family Housing, told KCAL News after a scathing report on the state's response to the crisis.

In late March, a federal judge called for an independent audit into the city's spending on the homelessness crisis. That court-monitored audit was ordered as part of settlement between the city and the LA Alliance of Human Rights, which alleged the city has not been transparent about how it's spending huge sums of taxpayer money on tackling a crisis that's only gotten worse.

"The city is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on homelessness every year and there is very little transparency around this — so much of it is going to service providers," said Matthew Umhofer, an attorney for the LA Alliance of Human Rights, said at the time.

"We need to know that every payment has an invoice attached to it," Umhofer said.

At the time, a spokesperson for Bass said she has called for an independent audit as well. 

"Mayor Bass has long led calls for accountability, transparency and outcome measures regarding homelessness services and the cost incurred by the city," said Zach Seidl, deputy mayor of communications for Bass' office.

The Weingart Center is backing the development and building of another nine buildings intended to house the homeless including another one already open along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles and another that's still under construction right around the corner from the newest building in downtown LA.

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