Mayor Karen Bass took her first official action on Dec. 12, declaring a homelessness emergency in the city of Los Angeles. The following day, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously ratified the emergency measure without discussion, marking the beginning of new efforts to address homelessness with a more comprehensive and better coordinated approach.
“This is a monumental day for the city of Los Angeles, and I commend and thank the City Council for their swift action and unanimous ratification of my emergency declaration,” Bass said on Dec. 13. “The people of our city have demanded that we urgently and immediately take every possible action to bring unhoused Angelenos indoors, and this declaration will enable us to move faster and unlock every tool possible. I look forward to continuing to lock arms with the City Council to advance a unified, citywide approach to our homelessness crisis. Together, we are moving Los Angeles in a new direction.”
The emergency declaration makes it easier for the mayor to create permanent and supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness by expediting contacts and bypassing regulations that require lengthy reviews. Bass said a core component of her approach to ending homelessness will be unifying the complex web of public and private departments and organizations working to get people off the streets. Bass said she will issue executive directives in the days ahead to further progress on homelessness.
“My mandate is to move Los Angeles in a new direction, with an urgent and strategic approach to solving our city’s toughest challenges and creating a brighter future for every Angeleno,” Bass said. “On my first day in office, we hit the ground running with a sea On Dec. 12, the new mayor also met with leaders in every city department, county leaders and representatives from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to stress a more unified approach to ending homelessness.
“I will not accept a homelessness crisis that afflicts more than 40,000 Angelenos, and affects every one of us. It is a humanitarian crisis that takes the life of five people every day. In every neighborhood, we can see the failures of the status quo – despair, desperation, human suffering, and our children are growing up knowing nothing else than this. It must stop and change starts now,” Bass added. “My emergency declaration unlocks tools and powers to make sure we are using every resource possible at the scale that is needed to save lives and restore neighborhoods. There will be no holding back on my watch.”
Bass appointed Mercedes Márquez, who has more than 35 years of experience in the private and public sectors, as chief of housing and homelessness solutions. Márquez served as general manager of the Los Angeles Housing Department under former mayors James Hahn, Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti, as well as deputy mayor for housing for Villaraigosa. She also served at the federal level as deputy general counsel for fair housing and civil rights in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, and as President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary for community planning and development in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I am honored to have Mayor Bass’ confidence and am excited and incredibly encouraged by her strategy and willingness to lead on the most critical issue facing our city,” Márquez said. “We will lead and we will also engage governmental, private sector and community partners, because when faced with a crisis that confronts us all, we all must come together to solve it.”
“Mercedes Márquez will report directly to me as she leads our work to move people inside, build housing, implement Measure ULA and protect tenants to prevent Angelenos from falling into homelessness,” Bass added. “Mercedes’ experience working in previous mayors’ offices, the city’s housing department, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and in the private sector makes her the right person to lead the comprehensive and whole of government approach that’s necessary to solve our homelessness crisis.”
The City Council approved the emergency declaration at a raucous meeting on Dec. 13 in which protesters in chambers frequently disrupted proceedings. The council members, without speaking on homelessness, voted unanimously in support of the emergency declaration.
New Councilmembers Katy Young Yaroslavsky, 5th District, and Hugo Soto-Martinez, 13th District, participated in the meeting, the final one before the council went on holiday recess.
Council President Paul Krekorian, 2nd District, said addressing homelessness will be a top priority when the council reconvenes on Jan. 10. Bass said she was thankful for the support.
“We must bring people indoors faster, and we will. We must build housing faster, and we will. We must coordinate shelter and services and we will. We must have coordination among the city officials and the city departments,” Bass said.
Representatives from private organizations fighting to end homelessness also said they are on board.
“Mayor Bass is right, homelessness is an emergency and the city must act accordingly,” said Jennifer Hark Dietz, CEO of the nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless. “Los Angeles’ housing and homelessness crises have existed for decades, and as one of the city’s largest service providers, we see that play out every day. We also see how criminalization and bureaucratic red tape only makes a person’s journey home more challenging. From PATH’s experience, when it comes to addressing encampments, we know that coordinated outreach efforts over enforcement work and that people need to be offered tangible housing solutions to avoid further traumatization.” change in how the city tackles homelessness.”
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