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Wednesday, May 26, 2021
A Model for Hawaii: Federal Judge Orders Los Angeles to Clear Skid Row
By Andrew Walden @ 5:42 AM :: 5363 Views :: Homelessness

by Andrew Walden

The 9th Circuit Court ruling in Martin v Boise, September 4, 2018, holds that cities can enforce vagrancy laws – but only if there are shelter spaces to force the vagrants in to. 

Empowered by this ruling, the LA Alliance for Human Rights April 20, 2021, won a Federal Court injunction, handed down by heroic U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, forcing the City of Los Angeles to stop pretending and actually build housing--by this October--for the 8,000 homeless drug addicts who have been allowed and encouraged to occupy LA Skid Row for many decades.

Following the same precedent, Hawaii community groups oppressed by policies which purposefully inundate their communities with homeless criminals and drug addicts can sue in federal court to force Hawaii’s counties to stop pretending, build SRO shelters for the homeless, and FORCE the homeless into them.

To start, you will need a lawyer who is NOT trying to preserve the homeless’ so-called ‘right’ to sleep on the streets.  The point of this effort is to end homelessness, not continue it.

Here is the story from the LA Alliance for Human Rights and from Court House News:

From the LA Alliance for Human Rights

Who We Are

LA Alliance for Human Rights is a broad coalition of stakeholders who believe that mental illness and homelessness in Los Angeles is a human rights crisis and are committed to pursuing solutions and a return to clean sidewalks, including through litigation. In 2019, a group of small business owners, residents, and social service providers formed an unincorporated association to pursue a lawsuit to require the City and County to take responsibility for their legal obligations to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all – housed and unhoused. Our membership now encompasses current and former homeless individuals, non-profits, residents, business owners, service providers, and community members, all seeking to find solutions to end the humanitarian crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles….

What do we want to accomplish?

Beds, Services, and the Obligation to Use Them. We are seeking a legally enforceable mandate whereby the community provides beds and services to those ready, willing, and able to accept shelter. At the same time, living in public spaces is forbidden and laws are enforced. This is a balanced social contract whereby the community is able to provide for those most vulnerable on our streets while also removing those who exist to prey on those vulnerable and the communities in which they reside.

Options exist for less than $10,000 per bed. For just a quarter of the Proposition HHH funds the City of Los Angeles could provide a bed for every homeless Angeleno in the street. For less than 1% of the County of Los Angeles’ $36 billion budget, the County could provide a bed for every homeless Angeleno in its jurisdiction.

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March 5, 2021

This week the LA Alliance filed a notice of intent with the court to file a Preliminary Injunction, which would require thousands of beds in the coming months paired with public spaces regulation. 

This is, in effect, the first step in placing the City and County into a court-supervised receivership concerning the homeless issues. Undoubtedly, both the City and County will feel that such an order is diminishing their powers. Yet, in the absence of a consensual agreement by the parties, court intervention becomes necessary.

In theory, the Alliance position is similar to the type of court intervention used in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case relating to school desegregation. Once it is clear that the local governments are unable/unwilling to address the problem adequately, the courts must take a more active role.

On another positive note, several of the largest law firms in downtown have now filed briefs supporting the Alliance’s position.

For those interested, all of the recent pleadings can be viewed on our website:

Thank you for your ongoing financial support as we look to make an even bigger impact in 2021. 

Don Steier

Chair, LA Alliance for Human Rights

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Judge Orders LA to Offer Shelter to Homeless On Skid Row

The federal judge is overseeing a lawsuit brought by a group of Los Angeles residents and business owners who say the city and county haven’t done enough to address the homelessness crisis.

by Martin Macias, Jr, Court House News, April 20, 2021

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A California federal judge issued a ground-shaking ruling Tuesday ordering Los Angeles city and county officials to audit funds allocated for fighting homelesness and undertake sweeping actions to house homeless people living in a 50-square block, open-air encampment by October.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter slammed city and county officials for consistently squandering opportunities to solve the homelessness crisis — even when provided robust state, federal and local funds to do so — and presiding over the gross mismanagement of funds meant to provide shelter and health services for homeless people.

Carter ordered officials to house unaccompanied women and children living in the 50-square block Skid Row community within 90 days, entire families in 120 days, and all other houseless people living there within 180 days.

Homeless people living in the Skid Row community account for about 28% of the more than 60,000 who are homeless in LA County.

In the ruling, Carter cited the rapid spread of diseases such as typhus, lack of sufficient toilets and showers and the increase in deaths among the homeless in Skid Row as justification for the far-reaching court action.

“This court cannot idly bear witness to preventable deaths,” Carter wrote. “This ever-worsening public health and safety emergency demands immediate, life-saving action. The city and county of Los Angeles have shown themselves to be unable or unwilling to devise effective solutions to LA’s homelessness crisis.”

Carter said the city and county may be violating the constitutional rights of the homeless population by failing to provide sufficient shelter and in particular failing to stem the disproportionate surge in deaths among Black houseless people.

“When state inaction has become so egregious, and the state so nonfunctional, as to create a death rate for Black people so disproportionate to their racial composition in the general population, the court can only reach one conclusion — state inaction has become state action that is strongly likely in violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” Carter wrote.

Despite making up only 8% of the general LA population, Black people made up 42% of the homeless population, according to county data.

The 110-page ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in March 2020 by the LA Alliance for Human Rights seeking a legal mandate requiring the city and county to provide shelter space to house everyone living on the street, particularly in LA’s Skid Row area. 

The alliance — made up of business owners, downtown residents and formerly homeless residents — sought a court-mandated plan to reduce encampments, provide care for homeless people and swift construction of shelter and housing.

Last week, the group filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate action. Carter granted the motion Tuesday and canceled a scheduled May 10 hearing.

Earlier this year, Carter hosted an unprecedented federal hearing with the parties in the lawsuit inside a large tent erected in a Skid Row parking lot.

LA Alliance chair Don Steier applauded Carter’s injunction.

“The judge has recognized the fact of which nearly every citizen in Los Angeles is already acutely aware: that the status quo isn’t working and cannot be allowed to continue,” Steier said in a statement. “This order gives us hope that the solutions will finally start outpacing the challenges.”

A spokesperson for LA City Attorney Mike Feurer said his office is reviewing the preliminary injunction ruling.

In 2020, LA County reported a nearly 13% increase in the local homeless population and a 14% increase for the city of LA. In total, more than 66,000 unsheltered people were counted.

A spokesperson for county counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

With Carter presiding over the lawsuit, officials have taken significant action to address the crisis of homelessness. 

This past June, the city and county agreed to build over 6,000 new beds for the homeless population over a 10-month period. Under the agreement filed with the court, the county would pay the city $60 million per year for 5 years to build the new beds and fund health and housing services.

In a preliminary injunction issued this past May, Carter ordered LA to provide shelter, a hotel room or a safe parking site to people living near or under freeways in order to protect them from car crashes, toxic fumes and falling concrete.

Carter is also overseeing federal settlements allowing nearby Orange County cities to enforce anti-camping ordinances if they provide a certain amount of shelter options for people sleeping in their streets and parks.

The judge’s ruling comes a day after LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an ambitious city spending plan that boosts investments in small businesses, gang reduction, youth programs and allocates $1 billion to combat homelessness.

Carter’s ruling specifically addresses Garcetti’s “justice budget,” saying the court is unimpressed with the city’s plan given that it failed to meet its goal of providing 15,000 publicly funded hotel rooms to homeless people through a state program called Project Roomkey.

As of this month, only 2,079 rooms that received funding from Roomkey were operational and just over 1,690 were actually occupied by homeless people.

“In spite of abundant funding drawn from local, state and federal budgets, the city and county fell far short of their stated goal,” Carter wrote in the ruling. “This embarrassing performance does not inspire confidence, to say the least, in the city’s new budget. From mishandling Project Roomkey to sinking $1.2 billion in the ever-delinquent Proposition HHH, Los Angeles has documented a long history of plans or budgets that have fallen short, year after year, as the homelessness crisis worsens.” 

Carter ordered the city to place the $1 billion earmarked for combatting homelessness in escrow with funding streams reported to the court within seven days.

The judge also ordered audits within 90 days of all state, federal and local funds provided to LA’s fight against homelessness and a full accounting of developers receiving funds from Proposition HHH, a voter-approved tax initiative ostensibly funding construction of 10,000 housing units.

Garcetti’s proposal also includes a pilot program that would provide $1,000 in universal basic income to 2,000 of the city’s neediest families for one full year. 

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LA Mayor: Declaring Homeless Emergency Won’t Help End Decades-Long Crisis

The federal judge had ordered Los Angeles city and county officials to explain why they haven’t declared an emergency to combat homelessness.

by Martin Macias, Jr, Court House News, April 27, 2021

LOS ANGELES — After being ordered by a federal judge to explain why a homelessness emergency hadn’t been declared, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told the court Tuesday issuing such a declaration wouldn’t provide him or the City Council with any additional authority to combat the crisis.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter issued a preliminary injunction on April 20 ordering LA city and county officials to house unaccompanied women and children living in the Skid Row community within 90 days and families there within 120 days.

Every homeless person living in the 50-square block, open-air encampment must be offered some form of housing by October, Carter ordered.

The Central District of California judge ordered Garcetti to explain why he hadn’t issued an emergency declaration which he said would grant them authority to “bypass bureaucracy” and address the crisis expeditiously. 

“To this day, Mayor Garcetti has not employed the emergency powers given to him by the city charter despite overwhelming evidence that the magnitude of the homelessness crisis is ‘beyond the control of the normal services’ of the city government,” Carter wrote. “An emergency declaration under the city charter would give the mayor the power to ‘promulgate, issue and enforce rules, regulations, orders and directives which the [mayor] considers necessary for the protection of life and property.’ These rules would be effective immediately upon their issuance, allowing Mayor Garcetti to bypass the bureaucracy and eliminate the inefficiencies that currently stifle progress on homelessness — still, the mayor has not acted, while other localities have.”

The mayor has authority under the city charter to declare a local emergency when an issue spirals out of the control of emergency officials and other branches of city government. In the past, emergencies have been declared in the event of wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

In a letter from Garcetti included in a brief filed Tuesday, the mayor explained his position on issuing such a declaration.

“There is no precedent nor clear authority for using a local emergency declaration for a decades-long social crisis involving multiple government systems as opposed to a natural disaster (e.g. fires, earthquakes), civil unrest, or the current Covid public health emergency,” Garcetti wrote. “As a city, we have determined that a declaration of an emergency will not provide me as mayor, nor the members of the LA City Council, with any additional authority or powers in support of our commitment to implement immediate and comprehensive solutions to address the crisis of people experiencing homelessness in the city of Los Angeles.”

Garcetti said the city is already operating under a 2015 shelter crisis declaration and other charter amendments that grant authority to use public buildings as shelter and access unspecified city fund sources.

“Additionally, I am reserving the right to continue emergency powers related to homelessness past the conclusion of the Covid-19 pandemic emergency,” Garcetti wrote.

The judge acknowledged the city’s shelter emergency but wrote the declaration appears to be empty words and platitudes.

“Homeless individuals continue to die in record numbers; the homeless population continues to grow; and government inertia continues to plague already insufficient relief efforts,” Carter wrote in the April 20 injunction. “Six years after the words were written, the Times Editorial Board’s proclamation that the shelter crisis declaration was a ‘farce and a waste of time’ continues to ring true. It is clear that Mayor Garcetti can draw on his power to declare a local emergency under the LA city charter in order to make progress towards solving the homelessness crisis.”

Carter also ordered the city to place $1 billion in funds in an escrow account to ensure it will be spent on various forms of housing for the homeless.

Attorneys for LA city and county filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit and asked Carter to stay the injunction pending appeal. Carter denied the motions but granted a two-month extension of his order to place $1 billion in escrow.

Garcetti said in the letter to the court approval of the $1 billion by the City Council — along with federal and state funds — will provide the city with resources to direct a “FEMA-level response” to the homelessness crisis.

Attorneys for LA County filed their own response to Carter’s order, saying that the LA County Board of Supervisors already declared a homeless emergency on Dec. 6, 2016.

In a supplemental brief supporting its motion to dismiss the lawsuit by local nonprofit LA Alliance for Human Rights, attorneys for LA County said Monday the county has no authority to enforce anti-vagrancy laws in Skid Row and no powers to clear sidewalks there.

The county also said Carter’s court is not the best arena for dealing with the homelessness crisis.

“While the county shares the goal of providing shelter to all people experiencing homelessness, this is not the proper forum to address how this should be accomplished,” the county said in its brief. “The problem of homelessness is multifaceted and involves complex issues of mental health, domestic violence, drug abuse and dependency, education, public housing, and personal finance. There are no well-pled allegations of fact showing causation by the county.” 

Carter scheduled a May 10 hearing on the county’s motion to toss the complaint.

Homeless people living in the Skid Row community account for about 28% of the more than 60,000 who are homeless in LA County.

In 2020, LA County reported a nearly 13% increase in the local homeless population, while the city of LA saw a 14% increase. In total, more than 66,000 unsheltered people were counted.

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