Rep. Karen Bass is making ending homelessness the centerpiece of her campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles.
Bass unveiled a plan on Friday calling for housing 15,000 people in her first year in office – although she did not specify exactly what proportion of those people would go to permanent accommodation, as opposed to temporary accommodation such as bunk-style shelters, tiny houses or rented hotel rooms.
Bass said this could be accomplished by expanding current programs using state and federal funding and reducing bureaucratic red tape that she says could have delayed the construction of permanent supportive housing and the distribution of rental vouchers.
She called for more renting and buying of existing properties, like the city, county and state did with Project Roomkey and Project Homekey. She also wants to create teams of outreach workers, medical and mental health professionals who would fan out across the city to help bring people back inside.
“There needs to be a global response,” Bass said, speaking at the vacant St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown. “We need housing, we need temporary housing, we need to get people off the streets, immediately. … In the end, people will not be allowed to live on the streets. There are just some things you don’t do outside, and sleeping is one of them.
Bass was joined at the event by Pat Bates, president of the Encino Ward Council, who said she saw Bass as a consensus builder who had the experience to improve conditions for people living in the Street. She applauded Bass’s focus on eliminating street encampments and providing more shelter, calling it “overdue”.
She “is more than fit for this test,” Bates said.
Reba Stevens, a county mental health commissioner who was previously homeless, described her own battles with depression and substance use disorders. She was housed and then returned to the streets twice before finally finding the right mental health support to help her.
It was a long journey, but it made her realize that helping people on the streets is more than just giving her a home. She said she believed Bass understood this more than any other contestant.
“I truly believe you are the solution to ending what is happening here in the city of Los Angeles,” Stevens told Bass at the event.
For his part, Bass used language that would sound familiar to those who have observed the city’s response to homelessness.
“It’s the biggest one that should receive the immediate response expected in the event of a natural disaster,” Bass said. “This is just a man-made disaster, and we need a FEMA-like response. I’m running for mayor to lead the emergency response that the homeless disaster in Los Angeles demands. Angeles. LA needs decisive leadership. We need action and urgency. We need follow through to get the job done.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has long called for a “FEMA-style response” to homelessness. The mayoral election rivals Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Atty. Mike Feuer, among others, used similar language.
Bass pointed to the building she was standing in – a closed hospital with around 350 beds – as emblematic of the bureaucratic malaise that has plagued the government in the face of the crisis.
She said the facility should be leased and upgraded to take care of people living on the streets. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of The Times with a network of medical companies, purchased the complex in 2020.
“Medical care and mental health services are important issues in addressing the homelessness crisis and I am pleased that MP Bass is raising these concerns and seeking solutions,” Soon-Shiong said in a statement. He did not respond directly to Bass’ call for the facility to be leased for this purpose.
Bass was asked about a law passed last summer known as ‘41.18’ that restricts where homeless people can camp. Buscaino and Councilor Kevin de León, another mayoral candidate, both brought motions under the new law to ban camping in specific places in the city.
Bass said that while she “agreed with the intent,” she felt this approach made it harder to have a unified approach to homelessness. She feared this would lead to a balkanized response to homelessness that would look different depending on where a person resides in the city.
Bass described the feeling among voters she spoke to that past money spent on homelessness had not been well spent. She said the government needed to show the public that funds were being spent wisely.
She was also unwilling to lend her support to a recently announced ballot initiative, backed by housing advocates, unions and progressive activist groups, that would raise taxes on real estate transactions in the city to fund permanent housing for the homeless and those at risk of reunification. in the street.