City Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion Thursday calling for the finalization of a property lease that would clear the way for about 115 emergency homeless shelter beds to be opened in the downtown Los Angeles area.
Huizar said the shelter site at 1426 Paloma St. could be opened within three months and become the third facility to be operational under Mayor Eric Garcetti's A Bridge Home program, which aims to open a temporary shelter in every City Council district while the city works to build more permanent supportive housing through Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by city voters in 2016.
"We have an obligation to help those living on our streets and while supportive housing through Measure HHH is our long-term goal, we need to offer hope now to people and emergency housing with supportive services is definitely a step in the right direction," Huizar said.
The "Bridge Home" program was announced by Garcetti during his State of the City speech last April as a new front in the fight against homelessness, which has grown by about 75 percent over the last six years. The 2018 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that more than 31,000 people are homeless in the city, including more than 23,000 living without shelter, which were both slight drops from the previous year after years of increases.
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At least $20 million in direct budget funding for the program is allocated in the current fiscal year budget, with an additional $10 million in unallocated funds that could be used for shelters, and $85 million from the state as a one-time emergency grant for homeless programs, some of which could be used for the Bridge Home program.
Garcetti said at least $20 million in the state funding could be directed toward shelters in the Skid Row area, where an estimated 2,000 people sleep on the street each night.
The Paloma Street shelter would be located south of Skid Row. The 2018 Homeless Count identified about 700 homeless people living without shelter in the industrial area from Seventh to 21st streets between Maple Avenue and Alameda Street, Huizar's office said.
Under the Bridge Home program, the county will pay for support services at the emergency sites.
"With the Paloma site, about 115 women and men who currently sleep on the streets of downtown L.A. will be put on a path to stable and supportive housing," said Dhakshike Wickrema, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' deputy for homeless policy. "This is Measure H at work, giving our residents a chance to attain lives of dignity and worth."
The Paloma Street motion comes a day after the City Council voted to examine the feasibility of establishing shelter and/or crisis response services on sites at 442 S. San Pedro St., 2426 E. Washington Blvd., 606 East 6th St. and 540 Towne Ave. All four sites are in downtown or Skid Row.
The Paloma Street site was identified when the property owner, Michael Kaboud, approached the county about using part of his facility for homeless housing, Huizar's office said. The site is currently a clothing warehouse, and the property owner will continue to operate an adjacent portion of the building for his business.
"I am happy to partner with the city and county on this new Bridge Home and to be doing my part in the fight to house our homeless," Kaboud said.
Huizar was an early proponent of using emergency shelters, and the first shelter under the Bridge Home program opened near City Hall close to the El Pueblo Historical Monument, which is also in Huizar's district.
Although he has been attempting to push forward with his various agendas, Huizar's political influence at City Hall has taken a serious hit in recent months, as City Council President Herb Wesson stripped him of all of his committee assignments in November, not long after Huizar's home and offices were searched by the FBI.
Huizar was also named in a search warrant related to the FBI's probe of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall focusing on real estate investments. The councilman has refused to directly address the FBI investigation in public, and no one has been arrested in connection with the FBI probe.