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Judge Denies Request To Delay Shelter Offer To Skid Row's Homeless

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A federal judge Sunday denied a request from Los Angeles city and county officials to pause or delay an order to offer housing to all homeless people living along Skid Row.

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)

Last week, in response to a lawsuit, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered the city and county of L.A. to offer housing to all homeless people in downtown L.A.'s Skid Row within six months.

Under his order, all single women and unaccompanied children must be offered shelter within three months, families in four months and every single unhoused resident by Oct. 18.

Carter noted that under these terms, Skid Row residents are not required to accept and may decline these offers.

On Sunday -- quoting a homeless Air Force veteran who said he found a 19-year-old blind girl walking the streets of Skid Row -- Carter rejected a bid by the city and county to hit pause on his decree.

In his order, Carter wrote that Wenzial Jarrell -- a homeless veteran who served for years in the Air Force before being injured in combat -- said that "service providers offer little to no substantive support for the people living in Skid Row."

Jarrell, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years of serving in war, said that he found a 19-year-old blind girl walking the streets of Skid Row. It was clear that she would be unable to survive there by herself and Jarrell brought her to a county services worker "who told him that there was nothing they could do for the girl," Carter wrote.

Jarrell, who prides himself on helping countless others to "get out of the black hole that is Skid Row," said that there is nothing worse than "getting stuck in the system of Skid Row and finding you cannot escape," Carter wrote, quoting from the man's declaration.

The judge wrote that there can be "no harm more grave or irreparable than the loss of life, and with each passing day, five homeless persons die in Skid Row."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has called the pace of the judge's homelessness placement schedule "unprecedented" and questioned where "the rooms, the real estate, etc." would be found to shelter several thousand indigent citizens within 180 days.

Both the city and county gave notice of appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked that Carter hit pause on last week's ruling pending resolution of the appeal. The judge refused the request, but made some modifications, including one involving Garcetti's announced $1 billion homelessness budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

In his original ruling, Carter suggested that Skid Row -- a sprawling 50-block warren of downtown streets containing one of the largest populations of indigent people in the nation -- was a byproduct of a legacy of racism that left Black people -- especially Black women -- "effectively abandoned on the streets. Such governmental inertia has affected not only Black Angelenos, not only homeless Angelenos, but all Angelenos -- of every race, gender identity, and social class."

Carter said that the time has come "to redress these wrongs and finish another measure of our nation's unfinished work."

The L.A. Alliance, a group of downtown business owners and homeless residents, brought the lawsuit against the city and county in March 2020. 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.

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

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