Homeless Crisis: LA Sheriff Villanueva urging county board of supervisors to declare a state of emergency

The homeless crisis in Los Angeles County continues to worsen, especially in the hard hit area of Venice Beach.  

Homeless outreach teams with the sheriff’s department have been going to Venice Beach often to help clean up and offer housing to homeless residents

Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference Wednesday addressing the public about the ongoing issue and possible ways to address the crisis. 

Villanueva said a letter was sent this morning to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors urging them to declare a local state of emergency in order to address the homeless crisis. 

By declaring a local state of emergency, the county will be able to apply for funding from FEMA. The sheriff said resources in LA County are extremely limited. 

"It’s a national disgrace. We are the wealthiest nation in the planet and we have such an enormous problem with homelessness and it’s a local tragedy," the sheriff stated. 

He is also urging LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to ‘uncuff the LAPD’ and allow them to do their jobs. Sheriff Villanueva also called out Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin and urged him to do his job for his district. 

RELATED: Bonin announces program to confront homeless crisis at Venice Beach; plans to fully reopen beach for public

During the press conference, Villanueva often referred to Mayor Garcetti and the Board of Supervisors as ‘architects of failure’, saying the city "handcuffed the LAPD,'' preventing them from using law enforcement to prevent people from camping on the beach and sidewalk, which he argued was more humane than letting people die on the street.

A response from Bonin, who advocates for leaving law enforcement out of homeless outreach, was not immediately available.

The sheriff stated that one of the main goals in fighting homelessness is to regulate public space. 

RELATED: Homeless in Venice don't plan to leave their outdoor beach lifestyle living anytime soon

"What’s the number one failure of local government, at the county and city level? Why every measure fails? We see the problem get bigger and bigger every year, because the city and county decided they will not regulate public space. When you don’t regulate public space, it will be occupied by somebody from somewhere," the sheriff stated.

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He said it was the sheriff's department's responsibility to "preserve peace,'' per California Government Code 26600, and if the city of Los Angeles is not regulating its public spaces and preserving the peace, the sheriff's department must step in.

The sheriff’s department plans to work with LAPD to regulate public space. 

Villanueva said LA’s tourism industry has been deeply impacted by the homeless crisis. 

"The destination for homeless throughout the nation is here, they are coming here to LA County, and in particular to tourist destinations like Venice, Hollywood, Olvera Street and all places in-between," he mentioned. 

"Right now there are tourism companies and foreign lands marking off LA as a place not to go. There is no more powerful image then people assaulting each other in broad daylight."

According to Villanueva, LA County sees roughly 50 million visitors a year and tourism helps bring in $18 billion a year to local economy. 

According to the sheriff’s department, the homeless count in 2011 stood at 39,000. Today the homeless count in the county stands at 89,000.

According to data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) homelessness in the county increased by 12.7% in 2020.