A Path Toward Progress: Why Los Angeles Needs a Consent Decree

  1. Housing or shelter to get everyone off the streets, out of the elements, and into safety, immediately. Four people are dying on our streets every day. Living in thousands of encampments all over Los Angeles, they are experiencing untold trauma, are subject to physical abuse, and are suffering illness. It is sick and inhumane. Whether it is hotel rooms, pallet shelters, or safe camping sites with services, we need alternatives to the horrible, unsafe, unsanitary, dangerous status quo. This short-term phase needs to house and shelter tens of thousands of people.
  2. Real housing, with a real and permanent transition from the streets. The unhoused and their advocates fear that a government effort to shelter tens of thousands of people would quickly become what it has become in other cities — a lowest common denominator approach that becomes semi-permanent warehousing that never really helps people transition into real housing. A second phase of the consent decree needs to require long-term solutions, including housing and services — in all parts of the city — to keep people from falling back into homelessness.
  3. Permanent, systemic change. Anything short of a consent decree risks treating homelessness as a one-time problem instead of a systemic one. For instance, a settlement agreement that commits the City and Country to spending a certain amount of money or offering a certain number of shelter beds might help people who are unhoused today, but ignores the fact that people keep becoming homeless. In three years, once again we will see tens of thousands of unhoused people in Los Angeles. The systems that create and respond to homelessness have to be transformed or replaced. On a small scale, that means that social service programs and caseworkers need to be on duty 24–7, and that the City and County need a real-time tracking system of available housing and shelter. On a larger scale, that means LAHSA might need to be replaced by an agency with real power, not dependent upon the City or County for action. A consent decree should remain in place until systemic changes are in place.

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