Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is proposing a record $1.3 billion budget that would see the city buy hotels to house its homeless population.
The Democrat, who was elected in November after promising to tackle the city’s spiraling homeless crisis, said the budget would also provide treatment programs for the homeless.
Her comments, which she made in an annual State of the City address to the Los Angeles City Council on Monday, came nearly four months into her first term.
The sheriff’s department is already combing through its property inventory to determine what could be used to house homeless people.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has proposed a $1.3 billion budget to fight homelessness in the city
Homeless camps are a common sight in many neighborhoods in Los Angeles
The move is part of its Homeless Safe Boarding Program, which provides homeless people with motel rooms and a path to permanent housing with services. Bass said the program has more than 1,000 participants so far.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised to deliver 500 temporary housing units to the city, while the Biden administration has sent the city and county more than $200 million to homeless programs.
Bass, speaking inside the ornate city hall chambers, described the budget proposal as a long-sought solution to Los Angeles’ homeless problem.
“After years of frustration… we can see a clearer path to a new Los Angeles,” she said. We’ve finally dispelled the myth that people don’t want to get in. They do.’
Bass anticipates the mayor’s optimism in the early months of his first term, but also contrasts him with the looming challenges that could reshape her time in office.
The city has expanded spending on homeless programs for years, and former Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a budget in 2021 with nearly $1 billion in homeless spending — but the number of unhoused residents has continued to increase.
Bass has already started housing homeless people in rooms in a few hotels and motels around Los Angeles, but critics — and some participants — complain they’ve been moved around so many times through the program that they begin to feel more uprooted than they did when they were He lived in dock tents.
Bass Inside Safe participant Princeton Parker, 38, told L.L.C Los Angeles Times About the first hotel he moved to.
But then he and others were moved out of the hotel, and moved between two other people over the course of one week.
“I was so excited,” he said, explaining that he felt isolated because of the moves. “And they took that from me.”
Bass’ defiance is evident in almost any neighborhood across Los Angeles, where homeless people can be seen living in garbage-strewn campsites or rusty RVs along streets, down tunnels and clustered around freeway exits.
About half of the homeless population—more than 40,000 citywide—suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, and about a third suffer from a serious mental illness. Homeless deaths average five per day.
Two homeless men outside a tent on a Los Angeles sidewalk in December
Paramedics tend to a homeless man who overdosed in downtown Los Angeles in April
Some economists see an upcoming recession that could lower city tax revenues and threaten Bass’ proposal to spend on the homeless, though opinions are divided on the direction of the economy.
A recent report from City Comptroller Kenneth Mejia outlined a series of other concerns, including the need for increased investment in repairing dilapidated streets and sidewalks and rising pension costs for retirees who “already consume 15 percent of the city’s general fund budget.”
Meanwhile, crime rates, including auto thefts and shootings, rose, while the Police Department saw staffing levels decline. Bass warned that the number of police officers could drop below 9,000 – a number not seen since 2002.
Bass said its budget for the year beginning July 1 recommends hiring hundreds of officers, along with a recruiting drive and incentives for new hires. It also funnels new dollars into a team of social workers and clinical psychologists who can respond to emergency calls when a police officer is not required.
“We know that safety goes beyond lights and sirens,” she said.
Bass, who is the first black woman mayor of Los Angeles and was on President Joe Biden’s vice presidential shortlist, defeated billionaire businessman Rick Caruso in the November election.
She has focused her campaign on getting the homeless off the streets and into shelters, reversing rising crime rates, and developing housing that working-class families can afford.