Sat. May 18th, 2024

Karen Bass aims to reverse L.A.’s — and the nation’s — decadeslong struggle with homelessness

By 37ci3 May3,2024


Karen Bass’ first act after being sworn in as Los Angeles mayor in December 2022 was to declare a state of emergency over homelessness.

Now, the first woman to lead the City of Angels, Bass has also focused on fighting homelessness at the national level as chair of the US Conference of Mayors Task Force on Homelessness.

This week, the former California congresswoman helped a bipartisan group of more than 50 mayors from around the country return to their old stomping grounds on Capitol Hill.

Representing 17 million people, mayors have developed a three-pronged national policy agenda to combat homelessness at the city, state, and federal levels.

“We know we must continue to work in partnership with leaders across the country to make a meaningful difference in the biggest crisis facing Los Angeles and hundreds of cities across the country,” said Bass, who chaired the meeting with the conference’s president. Hillary Shieve, Mayor of Reno, Nevada.

The task force called for more funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program, a federal effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that helps low-income, elderly and disabled people secure housing in the private market.

Mayors want to lift certain caps and restrictions on project-based vouchers for public housing that they say will give cities more flexibility to build more affordable housing.

Mayor Karen Bass speaks at a press conference
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass at a news conference outside the US Capitol on Tuesday.Mayor Karen Bass’ office

The mayors also called for stronger housing assistance for military veterans during a press conference Tuesday with House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member Mark Takano, D-Calif.

Mayors explained that unintended barriers prevent homeless veterans from entering.

For example, vets sometimes can’t afford housing because of other benefits they receive, mayors said. They want to ensure that at-risk veterans across the country don’t have to choose between disability benefits and housing.

Estimated number of veterans is lived Since 2010, the number of homeless has halved. announced It aims to move at least 41,000 unsheltered veterans into permanent housing by 2024. VA last year More than 46,000 veteransincluding about 1,800 in Los Angeles.

Last May, Bass joined VA Secretary Denis McDonough and stakeholders at the West Los Angeles VA campus to celebrate two new housing buildings that are part of an ongoing development for formerly homeless veterans. US Rep. Ted Lieu of California, a veteran himself, is a co-author. West Los Angeles Leasing Law with the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., helped facilitate the project.

“Americans who fight for our country, people who defend us, should never have to spend a night outside on our streets,” Bass said this week. “There are solutions to this crisis, so as we fight every day to get people off the streets, we need to bring the fight here to Washington so we can look at laws and regulations. Considering the magnitude of the problem we are experiencing today, it should be put aside.”

More broadly, in Los Angeles, the Bass administration launched Inside Safe, a comprehensive strategy designed to get people off the streets. The Mayor’s Field Response Team speaks with people who are homeless and then works with outreach experts and multiple government, private and nonprofit partners to help move individuals and families into designated temporary housing.

“We’re not going to hide people — we’re going to house people instead,” he said State of the City speech last month. “Inside Safe is our active rejection of the status quo that leaves homeless Angelenos to wait and die outside, in camps, until permanent housing is built.”

To date, the Bass administration said the initiative has helped about half of the city’s estimated 44,000 homeless population. The administration’s goals include efforts to build more permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Lacey Beaty, the first female mayor of Beaverton, Oregon, and the youngest The 39-year-old is an Army veteran of the war in Iraq and said he feels a “duty” to give a voice to people experiencing homelessness, especially his fellow service members.

“Cities are on the front lines of this humanitarian challenge,” he told NBC News. “We need help at every level of government. It’s not just a big city problem,” he added, explaining that homelessness affects the city of 96,000 as well as the wider region and state.

In 2023, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, also a Democrat, declared a state of emergency for housing and homelessness. In January, a homeless man in Beaverton died after lighting a cigarette and accidentally setting himself on fire near a library. And in nearby Portland, NBC affiliate KGW informed The fire chief shared data showing that 46 percent of fire-related injuries and 50 percent of deaths in 2023 involved homeless individuals, he said.

As mayor, Beaty was instrumental in establishing a year-round shelter in Beaverton. It has a health clinic and behavioral health resources to serve those experiencing homelessness.

Nationally, Shawyn Patterson-Howard is in her second term as the first female mayor of Mount Vernon, a suburb of New York City with a population of 71,000.

A seasoned social worker and immediate past president of the African American Mayors Association, she has worked to provide homes for people for decades.

“Homelessness occurs in metropolitan, suburban and rural communities. It can look different from city to city and state to state,” he said. “There are homeless encampments and the hidden homeless sleeping in basements, alleys and cars, with family and friends tripled. But this is a nationwide crisis.”

The mayors met on Monday and Tuesday with several Cabinet secretaries in the Biden administration, as well as bipartisan members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrats and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. , R-La.

Last May, the Biden administration took office ALL INCLUDED introduced as a first-of-its-kind initiative to address homeless people across the country. ALL INSIDE is part of a federal strategy to address homelessness that aims to reduce homelessness by 25 percent by 2025 and ultimately ensure that every person in America has a safe and affordable home.

Federal, state and local partnerships are “essential to a sustainable, systemic solution to the homelessness crisis,” said White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Tom Perez, who participated in meetings with mayors this week. In 2023, Bass took Perez on a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, where thousands of people lived in tent camps.

“People experiencing homelessness face a range of challenges that require an unprecedented level of collaboration at every level of government,” Perez said through a spokesperson.

Since Bass took office, Los Angeles has received at least $60 million through HUD to provide housing and support services. The Mayor and City Council also worked with members of Congress to secure more than $35 million in FY 2024 funding to improve housing and support programs like Inside Safe.

In his State of the City address, Bass acknowledged the high costs associated with the city’s efforts, but said it was necessary to end the homelessness crisis.

“It’s much more expensive to leave people homeless on our streets,” he said. “Apart from the loss of life, we all pay for thousands and thousands of fire, paramedic and police calls. The cost of every overdose, every emergency room visit, every night in the county jail — each is a human tragedy.”

Bass thanked President Joe Biden and his administration for their “strong partnership” on the issue and members of Congress, regardless of party, who are willing to “lock up their guns” to save lives.

“We have to continue this fight to get the job done,” the mayor said.

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