The mayor and city council of Los Angeles declared an emergency shelter crisis last month, taking advantage of a new California law that allows opening temporary homeless shelters on city-owned or -leased land.
The council’s motion said the declaration would give faith-based organizations and nonprofit groups “the right to provide shelter without an onerous and costly process.” And the emergency declaration would also allow providers to skirt restrictions on the maximum number of beds and how many people a shelter may serve.
The present number of shelter beds available in Los Angeles—7,646—falls woefully short of the official 2017 count of 25,237 unsheltered homeless people in the city. The city’s 2018-2019 budget would create a $20 million fund to construct emergency shelters citywide as part of the mayor’s larger “A Bridge Home” initiative.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposed site for the first of the new shelters, the Koreatown district, exploded with resistance to the idea. Residents there protested the plan Sunday and gathered more than 7,300 signatures in a single week through an online petition, MyNewsLA.com reported. The Korean American Coalition issued the petition and said the decision and efforts to combat homelessness “deserve the complete input of all voices” in the community. The local protest included a Facebook group “No Shelter on 682 Vermont,” a name taken from the proposed address of the new shelter.
Los Angeles code only allows the shelter crisis declaration to stand for one year, and City Council President Herb Wesson—who represents Koreatown—said any shelter would be open no longer than three years. He made a video subtitled in Korean as a rebuttal to the protest, saying “there is a lot of misinformation” and underscoring the needs of 400 unsheltered people in encampments in Koreatown. —R.H.