Gov. Jerry Brown refuses to declare homelessness a “state of emergency”

Skid Row city limits (credit: Robyn Beck)
Skid Row city limits (credit: Robyn Beck)

California Governor Jerry Brown will not declare a state of emergency over his state’s homeless crisis, he announced Wednesday.

Los Angeles County officials strongly disagree with this stance. After urging and public speeches by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to urge state officials to claim it a state of emergency. The designation would allow access to state funds typically used for natural disasters such as fires or earthquakes, KPCC reported. 

Brown’s deputy press secretary Debra Hoffman told KPCC that the Governor thinks the matter should ultimately fall under the purview of local governments, “which remain best positioned to tackle challenges like this.”

Los Angeles officials said the declaration would have made $500 million in state funds available for municipal governments to deal with their massive homeless populations.

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“If an earthquake or flood suddenly left tens of thousands of individuals homeless, the county and state would not hesitate to act swiftly and decisively,” the supervisors wrote, saying that the unsafe conditions faced by LA’s massive homeless population is not different.

Although L.A. has adapted local strategies to combat the issue, a significant portion of the action plan remain unfunded. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates L.A. County needs about $450 million — $250 million of which could be covered by a tax ballot measure.

But the remaining $200 million, the supervisors said, is where the state emergency funds would have come in.

In the past year alone, the number of people sleeping outside in tents, cars and on sidewalks has increased by nearly 6 percent in L.A. County, The Real Deal reported in May. [SCPR]Cathaleen Chen