Date
20 January 2017
Homeless people sit on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared homelessness an emergency and proposed spending US$100 million to combat the problem. Photo: Internet
Homeless people sit on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared homelessness an emergency and proposed spending US$100 million to combat the problem. Photo: Internet

LA to open some public buildings to homeless

Los Angeles will use some public buildings to shelter the homeless after officials raised the red flag over the growing number of people living on the streets.

The plan has won preliminary approval from the city council, Reuters reports.

The buildings, which could include vacant municipal structures or park facilities, would be selected by council members in consultation with residents, said David Graham-Caso, a spokesman for councilman Mike Bonin who co-sponsored the measure.

The country’s second most populous city would also allow people living in their cars to stay overnight in designated parking lots, although only a handful of vehicles per lot would be permitted, Graham-Caso said.

The city council voted unanimously to give initial approval to the plan, which is expected to come back for a final vote within two weeks, Graham-Caso said.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials took steps in September to declare homelessness an emergency and proposed spending US$100 million to combat the problem.

The plan has gained national attention.

“This is a problem that is in every single neighborhood in Los Angeles,” Graham-Caso said. “And you saw that with the 14-0 vote today.”

Los Angeles has seen the number of homeless people climb to 26,000 from 23,000 two years ago, with about 18,000 people living on the street.

Los Angeles officials have looked into the legal process the mayor might use to declare the problem of homelessness an emergency on par with natural disasters.

Such a declaration could help the city access certain federal and state funds, Graham-Caso said.

The city government has made an official finding that the number of shelter beds is insufficient to serve the homeless population during the winter, he said.

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