LOS ANGELES - On Monday, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and two Los Angeles City Council members joined a growing number of officials calling for the state to provide cities with $20 billion over five years to address the statewide homeless crisis.
Calling homelessness in California "a growing dystopian nightmare of all cities," Councilman Kevin de Leon, who represents Skid Row, urged the state to fund California cities' homelessness efforts with $4 billion every year for five years.
"We must act with a sense of urgency to meet this humanitarian crisis with, let me underscore, unprecedented investments," de Leon said. He added that he asked former members of the California Senate and Assembly to sign a letter calling on the California state legislature and the governor to commit over $20 billion over the next five years to build housing and combat homelessness throughout California, but especially in Los Angeles and Skid Row.
The letter signees include Sacramento Mayor and former California Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, former Sen. John Burton, Rep. Karen Bass and former L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson, de Leon said.
He added that the state should provide the funding with spending guidelines to hold cities accountable for how efficiently the money is used. On Thursday, a coalition of mayors from the state's 13 largest cities, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, called on the state for the $20 billion in funding. The mayors emphasized that the homelessness problem is larger than individual cities in California and needs a consistent state response to be properly addressed.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, who also represents Skid Row, joined de Leon and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez at the Skid Row Housing Trust Monday morning to urge the state to provide funding.
"We're here to fight for the dollars that are much needed. If you take a look around, close to 5,000 people in a few square blocks live on the streets. And here's why it's timely: during COVID, we learned a lot about communities getting left behind, but if you were homeless, not only did you get let behind, you got left our in the cold and the heat, you got left our with no resources, no COVID testing, vaccines are still problem, there's not a roof over your head, no food to eat or even clean water. That shouldn't happen in the fifth largest economy in the world," Santiago said.
"We are asking for the largest, boldest investment in homelessness funding. We're asking for radical change in the way we solve homelessness."
The call comes less than a week after the city and county of Los Angeles filed an emergency request to a federal appeals court to place a hold on U.S. District Judge David O. Carter's order that all indigent persons in Skid Row be offered shelter within six months. The mandatory order set a timetable for offers of shelter to be made to about 2,000 homeless people in Skid Row over the next 120 days. Carter called the area a decades-old byproduct of systemic racism that left Black people -- especially Black women -- "effectively abandoned on the streets. Such governmental inertia has affected not only Black Angelenos, not only homeless Angelenos, but all Angelenos -- of every race, gender identity and social class."
Carter also ruled that the city must in the next 60 days put $1 billion into escrow to be used for homelessness. The day before the ruling, Garcetti announced his budget proposal for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which includes about $950 million to combat the city's homelessness crisis.
Attorneys for the city and county filed for a hold on Carter's order and argued that it violates the constitutional separation of powers by usurping the role of local government.
"Right now you're standing at ground zero of the nation's homelessness crisis, Skid Row. Not ground zero for Los Angeles, not ground zero for California, but ground zero for the entire United States of America. In face, there are more unhoused Angelenos in my council district, Council District 14, than there are in the entire city of Chicago, the third most populated city in America," de Leon added Monday from the Skid Row Housing Trust. "It was designed intentionally to contain and some would say segregate the city's unhoused community. What we've learned is that homelessness, nor the factors that cause it, can be contained or segregated."
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez similarly said Monday that Skid Row "represents the epicenter of the systematic under-investment in housing and resources that help uplift members of our communities."