Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass declares homelessness an emergency

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(LOS ANGELES) — In her first act as Los Angeles mayor, Karen Bass declared homelessness a state of emergency in the city.

She visited the city’s Emergency Operations Center on Monday to make it official.

According to a statement from Bass’ office, the declaration “will recognize the severity of Los Angeles’ crisis and break new ground to maximize the ability to urgently move people inside.”

At least 41,980 people experienced homelessness in the city of Los Angeles during a three-day study this year, according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

The same study found that at least 69,144 people experienced homelessness in Los Angeles County.

It showed a 4.1% rise in homelessness from 2020 in Los Angeles County, and a 1.7% rise from 2020 in LA.

Local COVID-era policies like eviction moratoriums and rentals assistance, as well as federal assistance have helped people stay housed throughout the pandemic, according to LAHSA.

However, many of those policies have since ended or are about to end, and it’s left unhoused and people facing housing insecurity without a safety net, LAHSA reports.

In her campaign for mayor, Bass promised to “House 15,000 people by the end of year one, dramatically reduce street homelessness, end street encampments,” and “lead on mental health and substance abuse treatment,” the campaign website reads.

Earlier this year, as a House representative, Bass helped secure millions to fund programs that offer long-term shelter for unhoused Angelenos, support job training and career development programs for the unhoused and those with insecure housing.

She also backed funding for substance abuse programs, including residential and out-patient wrap-around counseling and drug treatment services, as well as funding to keep families together in Asian American Drug Abuse Prevention programs.

“These investments to combat homelessness, improve community safety and assist families with the increasing costs of living in our congressional district are coming at a crucial time,” Bass said in a March statement. “Now that we have these new allocated funds on the federal level, we have to ensure that they reach our communities as soon as possible.”

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