Teamwork on the Homeless

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is finally paying more attention to poor people who need a roof over their heads. The new city-county task force on the homeless is an indication of that, and it's about time.

As soon as it has its bearings, the joint task force should begin planning for and pressing for a countywide system of temporary shelters and for more inexpensive permanent housing. The need is urgent; the county must provide.

County government is responsible for the welfare of people who are at the end of their rope--including those who live in the streets, vacant lots, doorways or cars. The supervisors, however, have dragged their feet, responding with one study after another.

City government is not legally responsible for the homeless, but Mayor Tom Bradley and the Los Angeles City Council have done what they could. During the cold spell in January the council opened its chambers in City Hall to the homeless at night, and soon identified a vacant city-owned building near Little Tokyo for additional shelter. Hundreds of people had a warm, dry place to sleep, if only for a couple of chilly nights.

Then Bradley took the lead in proposing the joint task force to smooth the working relationship between the county and the city. This time Supervisor Mike Antonovich, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, agreed--evidence of a new spirit of cooperation.

Antonovich, a Republican, had opposed the joint task force two years ago because he feared that favorable publicity would boost Bradley's reelection campaign--a boost that might help Bradley, a Democrat, in his rematch with Gov. George Deukmejian, a Republican. The petty politics were played at the expense of thousands of very poor people.

Supervisor Ed Edelman, who originally proposed the task force in 1985, wants to formalize the committee so that the group will function beyond the current emergency. Edelman is on the right track. Long an advocate for the homeless, he can be depended on to keep up the pressure so that the task force produces results.

The task force will allow the county and the city to pool their limited resources and their efforts, both here and in Sacramento. The committee must function as an action team, however--not as another study group.

Los Angeles County has the responsibility to help the homeless people who live on the streets of Skid Row, in Hollywood, in Venice, in Long Beach and in other communities. The City of Los Angeles shares the problem. The new city-county task force, if effective, can really help the thousands of people who have no place to call home.

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