Los Angeles City and County to Spend Billions to Help Homeless People Under Lawsuit Settlement

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles County and city will spend billions of dollars to provide more housing and support services for homeless people under a lawsuit settlement approved Thursday by a federal judge.

The county ends more than two years of court battles over LA's response to the homelessness crisis by agreeing to provide an additional 3,000 beds by the end of 2026 for people with mental health and drug abuse issues.

It was the last piece in a series of commitments that were hammered out after a lawsuit was brought in 2020 by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition that includes businesses, residents, landlords, homeless people and others who alleged that inaction by both the city and county created a dangerous environment.

"All told, we're looking at some 25,000 new beds for unhoused people and a total of over $5 billion ... just to implement these three agreements," alliance spokesperson Daniel Conway said.

U.S. District Judge David Carter had rejected earlier settlement proposals offering far fewer beds.

Conway said the final deal was historic and "will stand the test of time" because it includes court enforcement requirements.

It will serve as "a blueprint for other communities looking to address homelessness humanely and comprehensively," Conway said.

The new agreement sets up a commitment to provide hundreds of new beds each year through 2026 but doesn't include specifics on funding, although earlier this year the county and city both passed budgets that together include some $1.9 billion to fight homelessness.

California is home to nearly a third of the nation's homeless population, according to federal data. About two-thirds of California's homeless population is unsheltered, meaning they live outside, often packed into encampments in major cities and along roadways.

During the court case, the city had contended that the county, which operates the local public health system, was obligated to provide services and housing for people who are homeless or have substance abuse issues but was failing.

Now, both governments will partner in an effort that "stands to help more unhoused Angelenos in the city come inside and receive care," Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement.

"It took a long time and a lot of hard work from many people to get to this point, but this is finally an agreement we can be proud of," county Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement. "This is an achievement that will mean real care and housing for thousands of people who are struggling with mental illness and addiction."

LA has one of the nation's largest unhoused populations. Those living on the streets, in shelters or in vehicles has ballooned in recent years.

A federally required January count estimated that on any given night there were more than 75,500 unhoused people in the county, with well over 46,000 of them in the LA city limits. About a third of them said they had substance abuse issues.

Since 2015, homelessness has increased by 70% in the county and 80% in the city.

Homeless populations, once mainly confined to Skid Row, are now found in nearly all parts of the city. Encampments have cropped up in Hollywood, pricey West Los Angeles and within sight of Los Angeles City Hall.

Bass made dealing with the homelessness crisis a priority in her mayoral campaign. On her first day in office last December, she declared a state of emergency over the issue.

However, a nonprofit group called Fix the City filed a lawsuit Monday against the emergency declaration, calling it a "vast and illegal expansion of mayoral power."

The group, which has battled the city over its approach to dealing with development issues, contends that Bass's efforts under the emergency to fast-track construction of affordable housing has circumvented necessary public input and planning review, including eliminating competitive bidding for some projects.