Councilmen urge city to declare homeless shelter crisis in L.A.

Jeffrey Robinson unfolds dozens of cots at a winter homeless shelter in March at Bethel AME Church in South Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal to declare a year-round shelter crisis was presented to the Los Angeles City Council on Friday.

Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin introduced a motion to extend the recently expired declaration of a winter shelter crisis for a full year.

Bonin spokesman David Graham-Caso said the motion builds on an action earlier in the week amending the law that previously restricted the declaration of a shelter crisis to the winter months.


The declaration of a crisis would remove zoning restrictions that could prevent shelters from opening in some areas. It does not, however, provide additional funding to pay for more shelters. Graham-Caso said Bonin would advocate for more shelter funds in the budget.

The motion cites the 2016 homeless count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority as justification for a crisis declaration. The homeless authority estimated the city’s homeless population at 28,000, with about 21,000 living on the street.

The motion noted that there are currently just over 9,000 beds in emergency shelter and transitional housing programs in the city.

“What Bonin has said repeatedly is if we had 21,000 people living on the street because of natural disaster, we wouldn’t hesitate to declare it a shelter crisis and get every person housed, if not permanently, temporarily,” Graham-Caso said. “That is the same urgency we should be treating the homeless crisis with.”

If adopted, the declaration would allow shelters to be opened as a matter of right on property owned or leased by the city in any zone, without regard to the number of beds or numbers of people served. It would also identify specific zones in commercial, industrial and residential areas where shelters could be opened by right on non-governmental land.

These changes would allow nonprofit and faith-based organizations to open shelters without going through a costly process.


The motion will next be heard in the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee.

Twitter: @LATDoug