LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday the city is making an emergency effort to provide immediate temporary housing for thousands of homeless people in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Garcetti said the city plans to put 6,000 beds in place at 42 recreation centers across the city in the coming weeks, with as many as 1,600 beds available by week's end at 13 centers.
The beds, which will be provided by the American Red Cross, will be paid for with funds that can be reimbursed by the federal government, the mayor said.
"None of us should have any illusions about the challenge that we face here today," Garcetti said. "There are still tough days ahead, and I'm prepared to step up and take up whatever necessary steps to protect Los Angeles, based on the advice of this county (Department of Public Health) now rather than later."
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Garcetti said the beds will be first prioritized for the city's 4,000 most vulnerable homeless people, those with underlying health conditions and people older than 65, who are most at risk of suffering from severe complications of COVID-19. If homeless people in the temporary shelters test positive for the virus, the mayor said he is working on securing trailers for them to be isolated and recover.
Garcetti said the city's reserve fund is twice as large as it what it was before the 2008 recession, and the City Council approved $20 million on Tuesday to create a COVID-19 emergency response fund.
"In times of emergencies, leaders must lead, and I thank Mayor Garcetti for taking this decisive action," City Council President Nury Martinez said. "The Los Angeles City Council will lead in support of this effort to immediately provide emergency shelter and services to thousands of unhoused elderly residents and others vulnerable to the coronavirus currently living on our streets."
People can find the latest updates, information about the city's response to the coronavirus and find ways to donate at corona-virus.la.
The mayor said there is a need for more testing kits to understand the scope of the virus spread, but he said about 5 million masks have been sent to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority outreach workers and $200,000 has been donated thus far to the city to assist in the response.
Garcetti also said people should do their best to keep their spirits up during the difficult time as they isolate themselves from the world.
"These can be very tough days, and you might be asking what you can do to relieve the stress that you're feeling," the mayor said. "Here's my advice: check in with loved ones, see how mom's doing, call a friend you haven't talked to ... don't just stay on the internet reading the stories about the crisis."
The county has a hotline for people to interact with therapists and mental healthcare professionals at 800-854-7771 or people can text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
Los Angeles has not enacted any "shelter-in-place" orders nor has it ordered a "lockdown" of the city, but the mayor did direct bars and businesses where large numbers of people to close during the pandemic, while restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery services.