[Pasadena Star News] U.S. District Judge David Carter, who presides over a labyrinthine case in which plaintiffs argue that public officials have not done enough to address Los Angeles’s homelessness crisis, ordered up the urgent timeline, arguing in a 110-page order that “for decades in Los Angeles, the desperation of its citizens has been met with a yawn.”
A federal judge has set out a whirlwind schedule for the city and county of Los Angeles, issuing an order Tuesday, April 20, demanding that the Skid Row’s homeless be housed or sheltered by October.
U.S. District Judge David Carter, who presides over a labyrinthine case in which plaintiffs argue that public officials have not done enough to address Los Angeles’s homelessness crisis, ordered up the urgent timeline, arguing in a 110-page order that “for decades in Los Angeles, the desperation of its citizens has been met with a yawn.”
“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” Carter wrote.
Under the order, the City and County must offer and if accepted provide shelter or housing to all unhoused women and children by July 19. Then, city and county officials would need to do the same for all families by Aug. 18. All others who are unhoused would need to be offered and be provided housing if accepted by Oct. 18.
As a counterpart to all this, the county would need to, within 90 days, offer and — if accepted — provide services and placement into housing and shelter that is administered by the Department of Mental Health or Department of Public Health.
The order has led to some, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, balking at the pace. He declined to say if the city would appeal, but pointed to provisions in the order that could become “roadblocks” against ongoing efforts to address homelessness.
“That would be an unprecedented pace, not just for Los Angeles but any place that we might see homelessness in America,” Garcetti told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
The groundbreaking 110-page order comes in response to a request for immediate court intervention submitted last week by the plaintiffs in a year-old federal lawsuit seeking to compel the city and county to quickly and effectively deal with the homelessness crisis. Carter’s housing order rejects city and county arguments that federal court intervention would improperly usurp the role of local government and upend longstanding programs already dealing with the crisis.
The motion was filed by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of downtown business owners and residents that originally brought the lawsuit in March 2020. City and county attorneys strongly objected, arguing in court papers that the L.A. Alliance’s “extraordinary” attempt to invoke the power of the court is “overbroad and unmanageable,” lacks legal standing and would “improperly usurp the role of local government and its elected officials.”
Pete White, of LACAN, an organization that advocates for people who are low-income and homeless, said he feared that the order could lead to people getting sheltered, but not housed, and may lead to enforcement against people who aren’t being housed. The group he represents has been intervening in the case.
“Over the past year, we have grown increasingly concerned about the ways in which the city has used this litigation to justify investment in emergency shelters instead of housing, because shelters won’t solve our housing crisis, and they certainly won’t do anything to address the structural racism that got us here in the first place,” he said.
He added that he hoped the city would take the “sweeping words” in Carter’s order, which pointed to the historical roots of the disproportionately large number of people of color who are homeless, “as a call to action to dismantle those racist systems and focus on solutions that give our communities a path to real housing, instead of doubling down and investing in emergency shelters and criminalization.”
In colorful language that takes in the Civil War and the Bruce’s Beach case of forced displacement of Black residents in Manhattan Beach, Carter traced the start of the crisis downtown to the 1920s, when the city created the Municipal Service Bureau for Homeless Men in Skid Row to assist men by connecting them with philanthropic organizations that provided food and lodging.
For the plaintiffs in the case, the order was a promising development. Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the LA Alliance for Human Rights, said that the order could be “transformational.”
He added that while there may be some parts of the order that may not ultimately be feasible, and may need amendment, it ultimately “read like a vote of no-confidence” about public officials progress on the issue of homelessness.
Public officials were also ordered to do the following:
- Cease the sale of more than 14,000 city properties, until the city controller has made a report to the court about them.
- Set aside $1 billion — just announced a day before, by Mayor Eric Garcetti for his proposed budget — into escrow within 7 days. The $1 billion is only a proposed amount for a budget that is just starting to be discussed for the upcoming year, starting July 1. It was unclear whether the money is technically available to be moved into escrow within the week.
- Perform an audit within 90 days of funds the city and county has received for addressing homelessness.
- Perform an audit within 30 days on county funds put toward addressing mental health substance use disorder treatment.