L.A. City Council asks Gov. Brown to declare homelessness a statewide emergency

Homeless men sort through their belongings on a traffic island near downtown Los Angeles last week.
Homeless men sort through their belongings on a traffic island near downtown Los Angeles last week.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

In the latest effort to shake more money out of the state for the local fight against homelessness, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to press Gov. Jerry Brown to declare homelessness a statewide emergency.

In response, the governor’s office said an emergency declaration was “not appropriate,” adding that local officials are in the best position to tailor homelessness solutions to their own communities.

In June, Brown rejected a similar appeal from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Local officials believe the declaration would free significant staff and money for their efforts to get an estimated 48,000 people countywide off the streets.


A previous back-channel bid by Mayor Eric Garcetti to nudge Brown toward a crisis declaration in advance of the feared El Niño storms failed. The governor said it was “unwise” to act before the rains arrived, which in the end posed little danger to homeless people.

The council’s unanimous vote supports a bill passed by the California Assembly in June and pending before the state Senate urging the emergency declaration.

California has 116,000 homeless residents, by far the most of any state, and some of the highest rental rates, the bill notes.

Rising rents, the loss of affordable rental units and slow wage growth have all contributed to the growth of homelessness, which rose 11% citywide in the last year, the council resolution said.

City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who authored the resolution, said the city had “done its part” by allotting $138 million to homeless services this year and by placing on the November ballot a $1.2-billion bond measure to build permanent supportive housing for homeless people.

“Homelessness is an all-hands-on-deck problem that requires solutions at every level of government,” Harris-Dawson said in a written statement.


Twitter: @geholland


4:40 p.m.: This article was updated to include the governor’s response.

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional background information.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.