Tent City in Los Angeles Elicits Response from Mayor

We received this post form Arnold Cohen of the Housing and Community Development Network. This is an interesting note from the field.

“Tent City” in Los Angeles Elicits Response from Mayor

The Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness (LACEH&H) on April 12 organized a Tent City at Los Angeles City Hall and issued a list of demands addressed to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. From tents pitched on the south side of city hall, more than 300 homeless people and housing advocates issued a 10-point plan demanding full implementation and funding of the comprehensive “Bring Los Angeles Home” plan that was released last year by LACEH&H, the Los Angeles Homeless Services, and a Blue Ribbon Panel of 64 other stakeholders, including then-City Councilmember Villaraigosa.

The same day, Mr. Villaraigosa responded to the demands in an Op-Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times titled “No Easy Fix for Homelessness.”

The demands of Tent City advocates to Mr. Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council included:

Declare immediately a human and legal right to housing in Los Angeles.
Stop the criminalization of homeless people.

Stop displacing homeless people to other parts of town; offer housing and substance abuse and mental health treatment to people in need.

Make 500 permanent housing units for people with incomes under $15,000 available in each of the 15 L.A. City Council districts by April 2008, for a total of 7,500 units.

Fully fund the $100 million housing trust fund immediately with a permanent, dedicated source of revenue.

Appoint immediately a Deputy Mayor of Housing & Homelessness to implement a plan to prevent and end homelessness; work with other cities and counties to fit into a regional plan.

Convene by December 2007, in conjunction with the LA County Board of Supervisors, an 88-City Summit on the regional homeless crisis.

In his op-ed piece, Mr. Villaraigosa acknowledged the challenges in addressing the needs of the city’s 90,000 homeless residents. “The path to substantive change is not an easy one; homelessness is a complex problem rooted in decades of public policy failures, a rise in poverty and a lack of affordable housing,” he said.

“The construction of permanent, supportive, affordable housing is the cornerstone of my office’s efforts,” Mr. Villaraigosa wrote. “Recently, we announced plans to spend $137 million from the city’s affordable-housing trust fund to build housing for Los Angeles residents with the greatest needs. This money will leverage more than $1 billion in state and federal funds and enable us to build nearly 1,500 units of housing for low-income and homeless people.”

Bob Erlenbusch, Executive Director of LACEH&H, said advocates would follow up on the demands laid out at Tent City. “The 1,500 units announced by the Mayor pales in comparison to the Housing First effort announced in New York City, which is planning to build or rehab 165,000 units over a 10-year period. We will keep the pressure on the Mayor in order to elevate housing and homelessness as one of his main issues,” Mr. Erlenbusch said.

“The Mayor didn’t agree to all our demands, but that’s okay. This is just day one,” Mr. Erlenbusch said. “We will continue to hold policymakers at all levels accountable for ending and preventing homelessness.”

For more information: Bob Erlenbusch, Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, 213-439-1070 x112