LA County commits $500M to homeless spending

Funding comes amid brewing policy debates

LA County allocates record new homeless spending (Getty)
LA County allocates record new homeless spending (Getty)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to spend a record $527 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year to address the county’s vexing homelessness crisis.

The money mostly comes from Measure H, a local sales tax passed by voters in 2017 that was designed specifically to alleviate homelessness. It provides some $350 million in annual funding. Despite billions of dollars spent in Los Angeles County, which also is facing a dire affordable housing shortage, there is still an estimated unhoused population of 66,000. Many sleep in vehicles or in the sprawling tent cities that populate much of downtown Los Angeles and most area parks.

The pandemic, which forced many usual services to close, also brought new risks, even as local authorities initiated a sweeping effort, known as Project Roomkey, to place vulnerable people into vacant hotel rooms; 739 homeless people died in LA County in the first six months of 2021, supervisor Kathryn Barger noted at the county board meeting. “This is a life-or-death situation, and it should encourage us to act with urgency and a new sense of direction,” she added.

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Of the more than half billion dollars in 2021-22 county spending, $150 million is earmarked for interim housing beds, $132 million is slated for permanent housing and $89 million is dedicated to rapid rehousing, a category that includes rent support.

The measure also comes just weeks after city of Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti signed a 2021-22 budget that included nearly $1 billion to address the crisis and amid a brewing debate over sweeps and local camping laws. In April, a federal judge also ordered the city and county to clear the city’s notorious Skid Row encampment by October, which prompted a protracted legal fight.

[Los Angeles Daily News] — Trevor Bach