LOS ANGELES (2UrbanGirls) – Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is basking in the success of removing 100 people off of city streets and into temporary shelters in less than 30 days on the job. No one seems concerned with how she is having so much success, in a short amount of time.
Bass campaigned on a platform of tackling the homeless crisis pledging to get 17,000 off the street in her first year in office and estimated it would take four (4) years to get a firm grasp on it.
She went a step further by declaring a state of emergency, which lasts six months, with the County and other local cities following her lead that the homeless crisis was not just an emergency but a full-blown crisis.
“We know that the community of Venice has suffered for a long time,” Bass said. The people on the streets have been suffering, and the people who have to live or work near the encampments have been suffering. And so I am happy to say that we were able to move a number of people into housing, and this work is going to continue.
“The transformation of these streets was no divine intervention, but the result of Bass’s new “Inside Safe” initiative, an effort to clear encampments by moving the homeless safely indoors.”https://t.co/f6qVBVF1Xr— Karen Bass (@KarenBassLA) January 15, 2023
So she went to Venice, where former Sheriff Alex Villanueva already showed it was possible to transition people safely from the streets and into shelter. The difference is he was villanized for “stepping out of bounds” while Bass is being cheered as a shero.
“They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said Villanueva. “Too bad my call to the board of supervisors and the governor for an emergency declaration fell on deaf ears in 2021.”
She had immediate success. Within ten short days Bass managed to get 100 people off the streets and out of tents.
The efforts were part of Bass’ new initiative called “Inside Safe” and a collective effort with partners from the nonprofit St. Joseph Center and newly elected city councilmember Traci Park. Villanueva also partnered with St. Joseph Center and other partners which resulted in more than 300 tents being removed from the Boardwalk in 2021.
“To have gotten so many people off the streets and into locations where they are safe and getting connected to services, is a tremendous win for me and the mayor,” said Park.
Days before Bass’ press conference, local news reporters were on the encampment cleanup trail alongside Bass and Park where they were interviewing those who accepted assistance. Some of which went on camera explaining their drug use.
According to the LA Centers for Alchohol and Drug Abuse 27% of the homeless reported substance abuse and 25% had serious mental illness.
Connecting them with services also incorporates the County of Los Angeles, which comes at a cost for all Angelenos.
Emily Alpert Reyes wrote an in-depth article in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times titled ‘This can only go on so long.’ Patients needing routine care pack MLK emergency department which focuses on the overwhelming number of residents using the emergency room as their de facto primary physician, but also touched on the strain of psychiatric patients being brought to the emergency department from beyond South L.A.
“A report requested by L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell found that of the psychiatric emergency patients transported by emergency medical services, only a small fraction bypassed a closer hospital for MLK. But the report did not include dropoffs by law enforcement.” wrote Reyes.
So where are they coming from?
Related: MLK Hospital in jeopardy of closing
Her article included some grim figures on MLK Hospital not having inpatient psychiatric beds, so patients stay in the emergency department, often for days, until staffers can find somewhere else for them to go. The average stay is nearly 35 hours for patients on 5150 holds. One psychiatric patient remained there for 35 days, hospital officials said.
The hospital’s emergency room has been losing tens of millions of dollars annually, $43 million last year, and despite a state bill being passed to infuse more than $20 billion in funding to the hospital, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed it saying “it wasn’t in the budget”.
The other issue with the success in Venice is the notion that the only people living in tents are solely from Los Angeles.
As we have seen in countless media reports, cities are shipping their homeless around the country, particularly to cities that have robust programs advertising “free housing” to those living in tents on the streets, like Los Angeles.
Villanueva cautions that the media attention being drawn into the mayor’s success could see the problem return.
“Mayor Bass’ approach fails to acknowledge two key factors: 1) every benefit doled out to the homeless locally attracts more homeless nationally and 2) the need to regulate public space by working in collaboration with law enforcement,” said Villanueva.
Overall, the community remains divided over whether temporary housing is a success the mayor. According to the mayor, the people are tired of seeing tents. When Newsom unveiled the budget for the upcoming year it earmarks $400 million in state funds to get people out of tents.
“The only question remaining is whether or not local media will collude with progressive officials and suppress the grim reality on the ground in order to give the illusion of “progress”,” said Villanueva.
This author regularly (and intentionally) drives past two housing developments in South LA that are being made from shipping containers. They have been under construction for at minimum two years. Each project was tagged at a cost of tens of millions of dollars and was expected to be up and running within 18 months of approval. They are still unfinished. The emergency declaration was also supposed to make building permanent housing faster.
When does that start?