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Mayor Bass’ program to move homeless people indoors to launch Tuesday

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass talks to the media.
Mayor Karen Bass takes questions last week after declaring a state of emergency on homelessness.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Tuesday will launch a city program to move people living in tents on streets into hotel and motel rooms, she said Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“Now it’s not going to address everybody, but it is going to address hopefully a significant number,” Bass told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “We’re going to put them in motels and hotels immediately.”

Bass said the “Inside Safe” program would get “people to move on their own” and wouldn’t involve “sweeps” — a pejorative word used by activists to describe the clearing of encampments by the city.

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“This is not coercing people, this is not ticketing or incarcerating people,” Bass said.

Bass’ comments shed more light on the program, which she has talked briefly about in recent weeks. Previously, she said the program would target some of the city’s larger encampments and utilize hotel conversions and master-leasing of buildings.

She also said last week that the first push to bring people indoors from encampments would cost “under $100 million” but didn’t elaborate.

The new mayor of Los Angeles instructed city departments to complete all reviews of affordable housing and shelter applications within 60 days. They usually take six to nine months, officials said.

Bass promised during her mayoral campaign to bring urgency to the homelessness crisis in L.A., where some 40,000 people are unhoused. Bass also previously said she would bring about 17,000 people indoors in her first year.

On Monday, Bass announced a state of emergency on homelessness, a declaration that gives her additional power to spend money on facilities and services without going through a competitive bidding process or the City Council.

She also issued a sweeping directive on Friday requiring all departments responsible for processing affordable housing and shelter applications to complete all reviews within 60 days. Such reviews typically take six to nine months, city officials said.

Affordable housing and homeless service providers have applauded Bass’ initiatives, but also cautioned that it remains to be seen how the policies will be implemented.

Bass was asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” what the city will do if people don’t want to move from the streets.

“What we have found in the community organizations that we’re bringing in to do this work is that you can get 95% of the people housed,” Bass said. “People will go. It takes a while. You have to do outreach.”

Karen Bass declared an emergency on her first day as Los Angeles mayor. In that declaration, she joins many mayors past, including Richard Riordan, Tom Bradley and Fletcher Bowron.

She also said the Inside Safe program will rely on “lessons that were learned from the pandemic.”

“Some community organizations have been trying to get the city to master-lease out entire hotels and motels for years,” Bass said.

At the end of the “Meet the Press” segment, Bass was asked what metrics should be used to judge her work on homelessness at the end of her four-year term.

“A fair way to judge it would be encampments should be significantly down, if not eliminated,” Bass said. “And there should be housing being built underway at a much more rapid pace. And there should not be 40,000 people who are unhoused. That’s for sure.”

A woman speaks at a church
Mayor Karen Bass attends service Sunday at First AME Church, where spoke about inspiring action to help fix the city’s homelessness crisis.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Later Sunday morning, Bass talked up the Inside Safe program and her other homelessness initiatives at First African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the city’s most prominent congregations.

“Thank you for being on the journey with me to win the election, but now the work begins,” Bass said as many in the congregation filmed the mayor on their phones. “And I want to ask you if you will please continue to pray for me, with me, walk with me as we go to this part of the journey.

“Because we have to get the entire city to understand — everybody has to have skin in this game. Housing has to be built everywhere.”

Times staff reporter Julia Wick contributed to this report.


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