Judge orders LA to offer shelter for homeless by the fall, county set to appeal ruling

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Los Angeles County is set to appeal a federal judge’s order requiring the city of Los Angeles and the county to shelter all unhoused residents of Skid Row within 180 days and audit any spending related to the homeless crisis.

The county filed a notice of appeal on Wednesday and will ask for the judge’s order to be suspended, attorney Skip Miller, who represents the county, said in a statement.

“Deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money and deliver services to people experiencing homelessness is a legislative, not a judicial, function,” Miller said.

The order was issued Tuesday by Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over a lawsuit by a group of business owners, residents and community leaders. It accuses the city and county of failing to comprehensively address the homelessness problem.

In a fiery 110-page order, Carter slammed officials’ inability to restrain the unprecedented growth of homelessness that has seen encampments spread into nearly every neighborhood in the region.

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” Carter wrote in granting a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs last week.

FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2017, file photo, a homeless man takes food from a trash can in Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, home to the nation’s largest concentration of homeless people in Los Angeles. A federal judge overseeing a sweeping lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, ordered the city and county to find shelter for all unhoused residents of Skid Row within 180 days and audit any spending related to the out-of-control crisis of people living on the streets. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

As of January 2020, there were more than 66,400 homeless people in Los Angeles County, rising 12.7% from 2019 to 2020. More than 41,000 homeless people reside within LA city limits. While the homeless population was once largely confined to the notorious Skid Row neighborhood in downtown, rows of tents, cardboard shelters, battered RVs and makeshift plywood structures are now familiar sights throughout the nation’s second-most populous city.

Carter ordered the city and county to find shelter for all women and children on Skid Row within 90 days, and every homeless person in the downtown area must have a place to stay by mid-October.

In addition, Carter mandated the city auditor examine all public money spent in recent years to combat homelessness, including funds from a 2016 bond measure approved by voters to create 10,000 housing units over a decade. But that project has been slow to ramp up.

The judge’s filing was made a day after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to spend nearly $1 billion in the coming year to get people off the streets. Carter on Tuesday ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow,” with a spending plan “accounted for and reported to the Court within seven days.”

Miller, an attorney representing LA County, said the judge’s order “goes well beyond” what the plaintiffs asked for in their preliminary injunction.

“We’re now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal,” Miller said, adding that the county has spent millions on “proven strategies that have produced measurable results throughout the region, not just on Skid Row.”

The lawsuit was filed last year by a group of business owners, residents and community leaders called the LA Alliance for Human Rights. It accuses the city and county of failing to comprehensively address the desperation that homeless people face — including hunger, crime, squalor and the coronavirus pandemic.

You can read the full injection below:

All reporting by Christopher Weber. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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