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California

Garcetti’s top homelessness advisor leaves post after 18 months

Homeless encampment

Caltrans workers clean up and remove debris from a tented homeless community under the 101 Freeway on March 14.

 

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Greg Spiegel, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top homelessness policy advisor, has left his post after 18 months, saying he felt he had accomplished his goal of making “a major impact” on the problem.

The city and L.A. County adopted sweeping plans last month to end homelessness.

“Eighteen months ago there wasn’t a clear strategy for addressing homelessness,” Spiegel said Tuesday. “On Feb. 9 we passed as comprehensive a strategy as anywhere in the country.”

Spiegel, 50, rejoined the Inner City Law Center on March 1 as director of strategic initiatives, after having previously been the group’s policy and communications director. He said he also wanted to spend more time with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

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“Greg Spiegel brought decades of hands-on experience and a unique perspective to City Hall,” Garcetti said in a written statement.

Spiegel’s dedication, the mayor said, “fostered unprecedented collaboration between local government agencies, advocates and the nonprofit community.”

Spiegel has been replaced by Alisa Orduna, whom Garcetti described as a veteran of years of nonprofit experience, most recently at United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home for Good homelessness project.

Spiegel said Home for Good and other nonprofits developed homelessness strategies, including expansion of permanent supportive housing and Housing First, that the city has now adopted. Housing First eliminates sobriety requirements and other barriers that kept some homeless people in the streets for years or decades.

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“We still have to make investment to make the big changes,” Spiegel said.

City leaders promised $100 million but have committed only $30 million to combat homelessness this year. The mayor has promised to make a $100-million investment in homeless strategies in the next fiscal year beginning in July, Spiegel said.

“But now we’re talking explicitly what it would cost,” Spiegel said. “The tone has totally changed.”

A federal lawsuit filed last week alleged that the city is seizing and destroying homeless people’s belongings on skid row in violation of a 2011 injunction that requires that non-hazardous property confiscated for blocking city streets be stored for 90 days for the owners to reclaim.

The suit also alleges skid row street people are being arrested for minor violations, including alleged possession of stolen shopping carts, related to their status as homeless people.

Spiegel said he and the mayor oppose sweep policies that criminalize homeless people.

“The mayor is critical of sweep policies,” Spiegel said. “We agree we need to decriminalize homelessness. “

Twitter: @geholland

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