LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to declare a shelter crisis in unincorporated areas of the county, freeing up state funding and streamlining the permit process for emergency shelters.
At the urging of Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the board also renewed a declaration of a shelter crisis in the Antelope Valley, allowing the High Desert Multi-Ambulatory Care Center to continue to operate as a temporary 100-bed shelter in an area with few other options.
More than 5,300 people are homeless in unincorporated areas, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2018 count.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the declaration of a shelter crisis was necessary to allow LAHSA to apply for state Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding, a program that offers $500 million for bridge housing and emergency services.
“The Homeless Services Authority has been working with community stakeholders for months to develop this request for $81 million to invest in interim housing, prevention and rapid rehousing strategies,” Kuehl said.
The monies will also be used to improve the database that manages case information for “every person experiencing homelessness in the county,” Kuehl said.
The declaration allows the county to suspend standards for housing, health and safety that would hinder construction of emergency temporary shelters for one year, during which it will commit to ensuring minimal health and safety.
In response to another motion by Kuehl, the board asked lawyers and staffers to report back on changes necessary to comply with a recent appellate court ruling that homeless people cannot be prosecuted for sleeping or camping in streets or public places when no shelter is available.
Such prosecution would be in violation of individuals’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, according to a September ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Martin v. Boise.
“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter,” according to the opinion written by Judge Marsha S. Berzon for the appeals panel.
Los Angeles County code prohibits camping and overnight sleeping on highways and roads, beaches, parks and flood control property, although some department have policies deferring enforcement until the offender has been offered support services.