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L.A. city homeless committee debuts with calls for restrooms, showers and shelter

L.A. Council committee calls for city to provide restrooms, showers and storage for homeless people

The Los Angeles City Council's new homeless committee kicked off Thursday with members calling for the city to provide showers, restrooms and emergency shelter to help indigents survive in the streets with dignity.

At the committee's inaugural meeting, members also discussed developing transitional and bridge lodgings for homeless people while they await permanent lodging, new storage facilities for their possessions and parking lots for people who live in their cars.

Councilman Jose Huizar, the committee chairman, promised to send the full council a comprehensive homeless plan in six months.

Over the years, Los Angeles has not wanted for homeless committees or plans. Former Councilwoman Jan Perry chaired a previous council Ad-Hoc Committee on Homelessness starting in 2006, but the problem persists.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2006 approved five regional homeless centers in every part of the region; not a single center was opened. Bring L.A. Home!, a 2003 blue-ribbon committee, evaporated in a mire of delays, disagreements and political maneuvering.

But committee members, including Councilman Mike Bonin, said homelessness had reached severe crisis levels, finally capturing the entire city's attention.

"We need to declare a state of emergency in homelessness," Bonin said. 

The committee meeting followed the council's vote Tuesday, approving a  more aggressive tack in breaking up street encampments. Several speakers applauded the hygiene and expanded shelter proposals, which were referred to staff for study, but said new homeless sweeps should have waited until officials can expand storage, now limited to a single skid row warehouse.

A federal court in 2012 ordered the city to stop taking and destroying homeless people's possessions. The city largely quit homeless sweeps and elaborate camps proliferated across the city. The new ordinances require the city to store seized belongings for 90 days. 

Huizar said the laws would not be enforced unless there is sufficient storage. The measures, which must be ratified at a second vote next week, are being tinkered with, he added.

"It's not perfect," said Huizar, noting Bonin has proposed an amendment to drop a misdemeanor penalty from the ordinances.

"But if possessions are illegally blocking the public right of way, we need to clear it up so everyone can use it," Huizar said.

The other council members on the committee are Curren Price, Felipe Fuentes and Gil Cedillo.

Follow @geholland for news on homelessness and gentrification.

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