L.A. Mayor Garcetti foresees progress on homelessness via talks with HUD Secretary Ben Carson

LAPD officers find several shopping carts in the homeless encampments on Stanford Avenue near 5th Street in downtown Los Angeles during a cleanup of skid row.
Los Angeles police officers collect shopping carts at a homeless encampment in downtown L.A. during a cleanup of skid row.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he hopes to reach a preliminary agreement with the Trump administration on a joint plan to help combat the city’s swelling homelessness crisis when he meets with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson on Friday.

Garcetti said a final deal was still days or weeks away but expressed optimism that the two sides were making progress toward an agreement to provide federal resources, including land, to augment local efforts to erect more shelter space for people living on the streets.

“I hope we’ll get very close,” Garcetti said on the sidelines of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in Washington.


Citing the negotiations, Garcetti would not say how much money the Trump administration might contribute. But he said the federal aid would not match the hundreds of millions of dollars spent at the local level.

Garcetti also said he could not yet publicly say where temporary shelters would be located. But he added that federal officials had visited sites in L.A. County including property owned by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“There’s surplus property that they have all over, so I think they looked at everything,” he said.

Garcetti’s aides met with Carson’s staff this week following months of phone calls and site visits. A HUD spokesperson confirmed the scheduled meeting between Garcetti and Carson.

In his comments to the mayors’ conference, Garcetti downplayed hopes of a massive federal aid package to helps cities and states fight homelessness.

“There’s no cavalry coming from Washington,” he said. “But we will not solve this locally without our state capitals and our nation’s capital.”

Garcetti faces intense pressure to find housing for the city’s burgeoning homeless population. Despite his aspirations for higher office as a Democrat, he has been eager to court help from the Trump administration as the crisis has worsened.


President Trump, a Republican, threatened for months to take action without consulting the city. But he has struck a more cooperative tone in recent weeks as it became clear federal officials could do little without local cooperation.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, center, talks to Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, after touring the facility Wednesday.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson, center, talks with Andy Bales, chief executive of L.A.’s Union Rescue Mission, after touring the facility last year.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Carson has also cited the need to work with local officials regardless of political party.

In San Francisco, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said state officials also have met with Trump administration officials in an effort to secure federal resources. But those talks appear to be lagging behind Los Angeles’ efforts.

Newsom said he sent a letter to Carson this week in his third attempt to convince the federal government to adjust funding for housing vouchers for the homeless to account for California’s high cost of rent.

Newsom said he sent a letter to Carson this week in his third attempt to convince the federal government to adjust funding for housing vouchers for the homeless to account for California’s high cost of rent.

Jan. 23, 2020

“We’ve got a lot of work to do across the state. We’ve got 151,000 folks on the streets and sidewalks, more than any other part of the country,” Newsom said at a news conference Wednesday.

Newsom emphasized the state’s current efforts, saying he has authorized $650 million in emergency aid and grants to get people off the street.

The governor has proposed spending $1.4 billion on homelessness in the new state budget, and has called for allocating $750 million to a new California Access to Housing and Services Fund meant to support rent subsidies and develop affordable units to provide more stable housing options.

Newsom said he is seeking more than temporary assistance from the Trump administration. To alleviate the homelessness crisis, California needs permanent supportive housing, he said.

“What I don’t want to see is a bunch of new trailers out there that become permanent,” Newsom said. “We’re looking for some clarification.”

Times staff writers Dakota Smith in Los Angeles and Philip Willon in San Francisco contributed to this report.