Facing rising criticism for the sharp increase in homelessness, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday defended the work being done by the city to address the problem while saying he takes "full responsibility" for the city's response to the issue.
In a letter to Los Angeles residents, Garcetti insisted that more than 100 projects are in the works to provide more than 7,400 housing units for the homeless thanks to Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016 to fund homelessness programs.
"And we are putting more shovels in the ground. Working with the City Council, we have increased our homelessness budget to more than $460 million for housing and services, 25 times what it was just four years ago, and the county has contributed hundreds of millions more," Garcetti said. "Our expanded funding will open new bridge housing that can temporarily bring our homeless neighbors off the street and supportive housing that gets people under a roof for good."
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Garcetti said the city's homeless crisis rivals the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake, which left more than 200,000 people homeless.
"The most recent statewide data shows that California has 129,972 homeless residents, making our current homelessness crisis the second-worst disaster we've ever seen in the Golden State," Garcetti said. "... The work we've done together kept the growth of L.A.'s homeless population to about half the average jump seen in cities across California. But we must do better and we must treat this problem like the humanitarian emergency that it is. That starts with me. As your mayor, I take full responsibility for our response to this crisis. And like everyone who has seen families in tents or spoken to a homeless veteran in need, I am both heartbroken and impatient."
Recently released numbers showed that Los Angeles' homeless population spiked by 16 percent over the past year, reaching about 36,300 people.
Countywide, the number of homeless jumped by 12 percent.
Garcetti said his office this week is creating a team to expedite building approvals for Proposition HHH-funded projects.
"We won't shy away from tough but necessary decisions to add new housing in our neighborhoods, and we'll strengthen the safety net that keeps people from becoming homeless in the first place, including starting a new legal assistance fund to help renters fight eviction," he said.
Garcetti touted the creation of thousands of housing units in the city in recent years, but said it isn't enough to keep up with the number of people falling into homelessness.
"Angelenos are becoming homeless faster than we can provide housing for them," Garcetti said. "Our partners in Sacramento are helping, sending our city $85 million in emergency homelessness funding last year, along with another $81 million to our combined city and county efforts. This year, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed increasing the state's housing and homelessness funding to $1 billion. And we will continue calling for critical state legislation that strengthens protections for renters and incentivizes more affordable housing construction."
Garcetti asked business owners who have unused parking lots to let people who sleep in their vehicles park there, and he urged leaders of start-up businesses to hire homeless people -- while also calling on homeless people to seek work.