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Thousands of people who are homeless living near Los Angeles freeways to get shelter, permanent housing

Priced Out: LA's Hidden Homeless
Priced out: L.A.'s hidden homeless 25:40

After months of wrangling and ongoing negotiations, Los Angeles county and city officials have reached a deal in federal court to relocate an estimated 7,000 people who are homeless who live near freeways into shelters and permanent housing, CBS Los Angeles reports. The deal is in response to a lawsuit filed in March which alleged that authorities were not doing enough to protect the homeless population from the coronavirus.

Under the agreement, approved Thursday by Judge David O. Carter, the county will set aside $300 million over five years toward emergency housing services for people living near freeways, along with seniors with underlying health conditions who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and are without a home.

The city of LA, meanwhile, will provide 6,000 new beds within the next 10 months for those people, and another 700 beds over the next 18 months, according to the LA County Board of Supervisors.

"This agreement will lead to major action, not rhetoric," LA City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement Thursday. "The court has challenged us to do better, to do more and to do it quickly, and we need to meet that challenge. We are now positioned to dive into difficult but honest conversations with our County partners about future financial resources and obligations. The Los Angeles City Council, and its leadership, will continue to do its duty to lead, collaborate and negotiate on behalf of the City with our County partners toward our common goal to house more homeless Angelenos faster."

Los Angeles homeless coronavirus
Israel Yaxon, an unemployed upholsterer who has lived for one year on the street, walks outside his tent over the bridge of the 110 Freeway, during the novel coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, California, on May 25, 2020. Apu Gomes / Getty

In March, a lawsuit was filed by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless people and disabled city dwellers who contended the apparent lack of services and alleged negligence on the part of city and county officials has resulted in a multitude of dangers in the area.

As the lawsuit dragged on, citing health and safety concerns, Judge Carter last month ordered that anyone camping within 500 feet of a freeway overpasses and underpasses be relocated to a shelter by May 22. He later extended the order, giving officials a September 1 deadline to move them or reach a long-term deal, which they did today.

As part of Thursday's agreement, Carter has dropped that relocation deadline.

The homeless crisis in LA has continued to worsen over the past several years. The 2020 Greater LA Homeless Count — which was conducted in January, prior to the pandemic — recorded 66,433 people living on the streets of LA County, a staggering 12.7% increase from the year before.

Of that total, 41,290 were within the city of LA, which marked a 14.2% increase over 2019, the LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported.

In March 2017, LA County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.

In November 2016, LA city voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless. Prop HHH money was used to fund a new women's shelter which opened in September 2019 on the site of the old Hollywood Library. Its also part of the Bride Home program.

In April, the state of California launched Project Roomkey, a statewide initiative in partnership with FEMA to temporarily house people who are homeless in available hotel and motel rooms in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. State and local governments are then reimbursed by FEMA for up to 75 percent for the cost of those rooms.

In 2018, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the "A Bridge Home" program, which involves putting up about two dozen temporary homeless shelters. The Bridge Home program housed 12,438 people in 2019, LAHSA reports. 

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