Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass vowed Monday to hold nothing back in handling rampant homelessness after declaring a state of emergency on her first day in office.
Bass signed an emergency declaration at a news conference where she compared homelessness to a natural disaster, and promised to use non-traditional methods to curb it.
“The death rate and mass displacement of LA’s homelessness crisis exceeded those of our most tragic natural disasters like the Northridge earthquake and Hurricane Harvey,” Bass said. “It is long overdue that we have declared it an emergency.”
“The Emergency Operations Center and effective strategy against homelessness cannot be run like just any other city function,” she added. “We will increase the scale and speed of the city’s approach to homelessness by removing it from the traditional city hall way of doing things.”
Part of that plan includes identifying city-owned buildings that could be used for housing, and leasing available apartment buildings and motel rooms across the city for the unhoused, she said.
“But when someone accepts an offer to live temporarily in a motel, they should be right in line for a permanent home of their own,” Bass said. “That’s how the system is supposed to work.”
According to the latest count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there were 41,980 unhoused people in the city — up 1.7% from 2020.
According to the declaration, the number of homeless people in LA is about 18 times higher than in New York City and 14 times higher compared with Chicago.
Bass’ declaration comes less than two months before the city’s COVID-19 emergency moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent expires Feb. 1, 2023.
Bass, who defeated billionaire businessman Rick Caruso in the mayoral race, ran on a plan to provide housing for 17,000 people in her first year.
“It’s a humanitarian crisis that takes the life of five people every day,” Bass said. “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. 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 our neighborhoods. There will be no holding back on my watch.”