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Growing homeless problem prompts HUD leader, local officials to meet

Growing homeless problem prompts HUD leader, local officials to meet
A shoeless homeless person sleep beneath a blanket on a bus bench on South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Julian Castro, U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is set to meet with Los Angeles officials Tuesday to... (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Amid growing concern about the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to meet with local elected officials about the issue.

Secretary Julian Castro will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council members and county supervisors, HUD spokesman George Gonzalez said.

No major announcement was expected to come out of the meeting. Gonzalez said it was intended as an "exchange of ideas" on the state of homelessness in Los Angeles.

City and county officials have launched a flurry of activity on the issue since a countywide count showed a 12% jump over the past two years in the number of homeless people living in the city and county of Los Angeles. More than 44,000 homeless people were tallied around the county in January, up from about 39,000 in 2013, and 26,000 were in the city.

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In August, county officials set up a new homelessness initiative and began planning public meetings to help develop a detailed plan to address the issue. Those meetings are now underway, and the report is expected in February.

In September, city officials declared a "state of emergency" on homelessness and pledged to put $100 million toward addressing the problem, although it was unclear where the money would come from or how it would be spent.

County officials then announced they were also allocating $100 million to the new homelessness initiative.

Mayoral spokeswoman Connie Llanos said that Castro had scheduled a meeting with Garcetti to discuss housing and homelessness. Garcetti then decided to arrange a meeting between Castro and city and county officials on the same topics.

"The mayor decided to offer the opportunity to sit down and talk to the secretary to his county colleagues and City Council colleagues," Llanos said.

A spokeswoman for county Supervisor Don Knabe said he plans to ask for more federal assistance for county residents who are chronically homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, including so-called Section 8 vouchers that provide federal rental subsidies for low-income people and families.

The meeting with Castro will be at 9 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration and will be open to the public. A posted agenda for the meeting did not mention Castro and said only that the supervisors "will discuss housing issues affecting Los Angeles County."

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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