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With state of emergency on homelessness, L.A. County officials look for red tape to cut

L.A. County supervisors on Tuesday approved a declaration of a state of emergency over homelessness.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an emergency declaration aimed at dramatically speeding up services to the tens of thousands of people living in encampments and vehicles.

The declaration started the clock: County officials with the Homeless Initiative now have two weeks to report to the board exactly what parts of the county bureaucracy can be scrapped.

The declaration, crafted by Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger, aims to cut steps in three time-consuming county processes: contracting, procurement and hiring.

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The Homeless Initiative, which is housed within the county’s chief executive office, is compiling “a list of specific requests and action items” for the board to take, according to its director.

L.A. County Chief Executive Fesia Davenport said this could include making “emergency appointments” for new hires.

“We need to expedite and do things faster,” Davenport told the board. “And that means that we should no longer — at least during this emergency period — have a hyper focus of making sure we check off every box ... because that’s what starts to slow us down.”

The county became the third jurisdiction in Southern California to announce a state of emergency recently over people sleeping on the streets. Both Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson began working on similar declarations immediately after taking office.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is expected to declare the region’s homelessness crisis a ‘state of emergency.’ Officials say the move will speed approval of contracts and hiring.

All five supervisors framed the declaration as a long-overdue step to change the trajectory for the roughly 69,000 people living outdoors across the county. Despite $500 million flowing through the Homeless Initiative each year to get people off the street, some supervisors acknowledged Tuesday that not enough is being done.

“Honestly, it feels to me like what we’ve been doing hasn’t really worked and hasn’t brought the results that I believe the public wants to see, as well as all those folks sleeping on the streets are going to want to see,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn.

Carla Cunningham, who has been homeless for roughly a year, said in an interview that she was deeply skeptical that the emergency declaration, despite its lofty goals, would do much to get her out of the shelter where she has been staying with her 11-year-old son. Cunningham said she lost her apartment following a rent hike of roughly $500 and has been unable to get help to get back into housing.

“They’ve been saying it now for years that they’re going to help the homeless,” said Cunningham, who attended Tuesday’s board meeting. “The money’s going somewhere. It is damn sure not coming to me.”


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