A coalition of Downtown property owners, residents and homeless individuals will move forward with a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County to demand a solution to widespread homelessness.
The L.A. Alliance for Human Rights said in a court filing it anticipates a second amended complaint against the county “will significantly streamline the case” – if and when the court signs off on a recent settlement with the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
On April 1, the city settled its portion of the March 2020 lawsuit, leaving the county open as a defendant.
Under the settlement, the city of L.A. agreed to spend as much as $3 billion over the next five years to create up to 16,000 beds or housing units for the homeless — enough to shelter 60 percent of its homeless residents. Los Angeles has 36,000 homeless residents; the county has 66,000.
City officials said the county should be responsible for housing and providing services for those living on the street with serious mental illnesses, physical maladies and drug addiction – since the county has medical and mental health facilities, and the city doesn’t.
By shifting responsibility to the county for sheltering the sick and vulnerable, the city reduced the number of homeless people it would have to house.
In February, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered a series of mandatory settlement talks after city and county representatives indicated they had no sense of when or if they might strike a deal that would lead to an agreement. A few weeks ago, the county withdrew from the multiple hours of discussions.
Carter has pointed to a “historic schism” between the city and county that had apparently frustrated an eventual settlement. The two jurisdictions were supposed to reach a compromise on funding and other issues before a final agreement with the L.A. Alliance.
An attorney for the L.A. Alliance, Elizabeth Mitchell, told reporters the county has “refused to participate in this settlement.”
“We will not stop working to hold the county accountable,” she said. “This crisis is too big for any one branch of government. The county is not getting out of its obligations.”
The lawsuit brought by the L.A. Alliance initially aimed to force local governments to “comprehensively” solve the homelessness crisis in Skid Row, an area in Downtown L.A. The suit was then expanded to include homeless populations along freeways, then to the unhoused population at large.
Skip Miller, outside counsel for the county, has argued the county should not be held accountable for Downtown L.A. because “the city has primary jurisdiction.” On April 1, he said the lawsuit “has no merit with regard to the county.”
“It is between the plaintiffs and the city, and we’re glad they settled,” he said. “We intend to litigate and win this case. The county is more than doing its job and doing everything possible to address homelessness without stigmatizing it as a crime.”
[LA Daily News] – Dana Bartholomew