Demand More: Unify LA's Homeless Response

Demand More: Unify LA's Homeless Response

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CASH LA started this petition to Elected Officials

We have lost confidence in LA’s governmental homelessness response. During a pandemic that will stretch well into 2021, effective action demands a concentration of decision making and accountability.

We thank the City and County for their work so far. Since COVID broke-out in March, officials have confronted challenges that pushed people and resources to their limits. Swift initial actions—driven by unprecedented leadership and collaboration—were heartening: over 5,500 people were sheltered under Project Room Key, trailers were obtained for quarantine, surge capacity was built into medical facilities; even LA City’s rec centers were converted to shelters for thousands of people.
These positive results reveal what is possible when restrictions are lifted and people are united by a common goal: to protect the vulnerable, provide refuge from the street, and reduce the spread of a pandemic. However, the above plans envisioned a short duration of the COVID crisis, and—after six months—it is clear that we must re-calibrate.
The severity of this crisis could not have been anticipated in March, but we know more now. The World Health Organization has indicated that this could be a two-year battle. Not only do we therefore face protracted COVID-19 health impacts, but growing economic dislocation, lingering unemployment, the threat of evictions, and massive fiscal challenges at the City, County, and State levels. Our initial short-term plans will not be effective in such an environment. Now, our leaders must do more to ensure their previous efforts are not erased

We call for:

1. An emergency declaration similar to a cataclysmic earthquake. COVID is an existential threat on the order of a natural disaster. In consultation with public health officials, we must activate emergency powers to mobilize more resources, including safe parking, safe camping, and—if warranted—FEMA-style facilities to provide for human subsistence and dignity.
2. A time-limited concentration of decision-making authority in one person/entity empowered by a new compact between state and local elected officials. The gains seen in the spring have started to slip, signaling a return to the disaggregated processes that characterized LA’s pre-pandemic homeless response. The growing confusion, distrust of providers, reluctance to try new solutions, and isolation among individuals experiencing homelessness is evidence of this disaggregation, which only exacerbates mental illness and substance use issues.
3. Establishing measurable, time-sensitive goals—articulated from the perspective of people experiencing homelessness—to ensure the new authority remains transparent and motivated to improve outcomes.
4. Shared responsibility among all cities in the LA region to ensure that best practices are implemented regardless of a client’s location.
5. Clear accountability for meeting these goals.
6. Clear communication to the public about decision rationales. Communities should not be left in the dark about shelter closures or program suspensions. Communities can be assets in identifying solutions and overcoming resistance among unhoused people. These assets should be leveraged.
7. Sunsetting the centralized authority once predetermined metrics in, e.g., homeless count, housing construction, hotel/motel repurposing, and herd immunity are met.
This is an unprecedented time requiring an unprecedented response. If done right, unhoused people have access to safe, humane, and stabilizing places to live, and housed people will see dismantled encampments, restored rights-of-way, and diminished human suffering. We hope you agree.


Coalition for Accountability in Solving Homelessness in Los Angeles

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