LA County Passes Record $527 Million for Soaring Homeless Crisis

Los Angeles County approved a record $527.1 million in next year’s budget for a plan to fight homelessness, which has become so pervasive that officials are tearing down tent cities and a judge ordered shelter for everyone on downtown’s Skid Row.

The vast majority of the funds for the initiative -- $454.8 million -- will be raised through Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2017 to pay for homeless prevention initiatives, street outreach and housing. The rest will come from federal stimulus payments, state grants and other funding sources, according to an emailed statement from the Los Angeles Homeless Initiative on Tuesday. The previous budget dedicated $509 million to the initiative.

LA County Passes Record $527 Million for Soaring Homeless Crisis

The county’s homeless population was already soaring before the pandemic, rising 13% to 66,436 people in 2020, though a real-time census was canceled this year because of the risk of sending people into the streets for the count during the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic likely inflicted further pain by hitting low-income earners hardest, making them more vulnerable to housing instability, and cutting off services to the poor.

The crux of the issue is a housing shortfall in L.A. that’s most severely impacting low-wage earners. About half a million low-income renter households in Los Angeles County don’t have access to an affordable home, according to the 2021 LA County Annual Affordable Housing Outcomes Report. At the end of last year, L.A. County and other jurisdictions had an inventory of 120,000 affordable homes, according to the release.

Officials are taking heavy -- and sometimes controversial -- steps to tackle the situation. The city temporarily closed the central Echo Park Lake to clear out homeless encampments earlier this year, a move that prompted protests. Meanwhile, a district judge ordered Los Angeles to find housing for thousands of people living in the Skid Row neighborhood by October, a ruling that is being appealed.

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