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Judge Orders LA To Offer Shelter To All Unhoused Skid Row Residents By October

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A federal judge Tuesday ordered the city and county of Los Angeles to offer housing to the entire unhoused population of Skid Row by October.

A cyclist rides past a Skid Row sign in Los Angeles, California on February 1, 2021. - The federal judge overseeing attempts to resolve the homeless situation has called for an urgent meeting to discuss worsening conditions and the poor official response. Combined now with the coronaviruspandemic and worsening mental health and substance abuse issues, US District Judge David Carter who toured Skid Row last week likened the situation to "a significant natural disaster in Southern California with no end in sight." (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

"It's damning," Elizabeth Mitchell, attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said. "It's nothing less than just an indictment of the failure of leadership that we have seen for the last 20 years."

Fed up by what he called government inaction, bureaucratic paralysis and a lack of accountability, Judge David O. Carter said in his order that all single women and unaccompanied children must be offered shelter within three months, families in four months and every single unhoused resident should be given the opportunity to come off the streets by Oct. 18.

"All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets," Carter wrote.

It's the latest order in a sweeping lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles, and came just one day after Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to spend nearly $1 billion to get people off the streets.

Garcetti called the timetable set by Carter "unprecedented."

"I want to read [the order] and understand how [the judge] would envision that happening, where the rooms, the real estate etc. (are)," he said. "I've had great conversations with the judge.

"Obviously that would be an unprecedented pace, not just for Los Angeles but for any place I've ever seen for homelessness in America," Garcetti continued. "And I want to be as bold and as ambitious as him, but like I said, I think many of us feel it's not just about getting people into shelter, it's getting people into homes."

Carter blasted Garcetti in the order, writing that despite the power to declare the homelessness crisis an emergency — which would allow the city to "bypass the bureaucracy and eliminate the inefficiencies that currently stifle progress — the mayor "has not employed the emergency powers given to him by the City Charter despite overwhelming evidence that the magnitude of the homelessness crisis is "beyond the control of the normal services' of the city government."

He also ordered that the nearly $1 billion proposed in Garcetti's budget plan "be placed in escrow forthwith, with funding streams accounted for and reported to the court within seven days."

The 110-page order was in response to a request submitted last week in the year-old federal lawsuit by the plaintiffs that sought immediate court intervention to compel the city and county to quickly and effectively address the city's homelessness crisis.

But Skip Miller, outside counsel for the county, said Carter's order went "well beyond" what the plaintiffs had asked for. He added that the county was evaluating its options, including the possibility of an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

L.A. Mission CEO Troy Vaughn said it's a positive step for Skid Row, but he said he hopes that it doesn't get tied up in yet another court battle.

"It would hurt my heart if we spend so much time in appealing in court that the resources never get to the people who need it the most," he said.

Vaughn also believes that bringing the residents of Skid Row to the table to tell those in positions of power what they want and need would be most effective.

Carter also mandated that the city auditor examine all public money spent in recent years to combat homelessness, including funds from a 2016 bond measure approved by voters.

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 unhoused people living in Los Angeles County — 41,000 of whom lived within the L.A. city limits.

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

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