LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A federal judge Thursday signed off on the settlement of a closely watched lawsuit dealing with local government’s response to a perceived lack of services for the thousands of homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge David Carter rejected earlier efforts to settle, denying a previous joint stipulation to dismiss the case brought by Los Angeles County and plaintiffs the LA Alliance for Human Rights — a coalition of housed and unhoused residents of downtown — saying he wanted the county to provide both additional homeless services and hand the court more “oversight and enforcement powers.”
In the settlement, which Carter signed after a brief hearing in Los Angeles federal court, the county agreed to provide an additional 3,000 beds for mental health and substance abuse treatment by the end of 2026. A previous settlement attempt provided for 1,000 additional beds.
The county also pledged to fund 450 new subsidies for board and care homes, and, significantly, agreed to the appointment of a retired judge to monitor the county’s compliance with the terms of the settlement.
Carter said he wanted all receipts and paperwork to be made public, underlining his efforts to ensure transparency in regards to the huge sums of taxpayers’ money involved in the settlement.
Mira Hashmall, outside counsel for LA County in the case, said in a statement after the hearing that the settlement commits the county to providing an additional $1.24 billion worth of resources and services over the next four years for people experiencing homelessness, especially those suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.
She said that together with $293 million the county previously pledged for 6,700 new shelter beds and services, “the county has now committed a record $1.53 billion in additional homelessness funding to provide over 10,000 new beds and enhanced homelessness services during this lawsuit alone.”
She said that figure is in addition to the more than $2 billion the county has expended through its own homelessness programs since passaging Measure H in 2017.
LA Alliance spokesperson Daniel Conway applauded the agreement, which marks the end of court hearings in the case.
“We are deeply encouraged by Judge Carter’s approval of the settlement,” he said. “We see this as serving as a foundation for the city and county to continue to cooperate to address the humanitarian crisis on the streets of Los Angeles.”
Calling the settlement a “historic step forward” in ongoing efforts to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, Conway said the city and county’s settlement agreements could serve as “a blueprint for other communities looking to address homelessness humanely and comprehensively.”
The judge approved a separate settlement between LA Alliance and the City of Los Angeles in June 2022 that provides for 13,000 beds for the indigent.
Hashmall said the county, directly or through its partners, has helped place 90,000 people in permanent housing and 124,000 in shelters over the last five and a half years.
In a statement Thursday, Mayor Karen Bass thanked Carter for his “leadership and dedication” and said the county’s commitment of 3,000 additional mental health and substance use disorder beds “stands to help more unhoused Angelenos in the city come inside and receive care.”
She said she looked forward to continuing to work together with the City Council and the Board of Supervisors “to make sure Angelenos who are struggling with addiction and mental health have access to these new resources. We will not end homelessness in Los Angeles without addressing addiction and mental health illnesses, and when we stop pointing fingers and come together, we show that real progress can be made.”
The settlement comes a month after a federal appeals court rejected the county’s effort to compel Carter to sign off on the previous proposal.
In its March 2020 lawsuit, the LA Alliance for Human Rights alleged that inaction by the city and county of Los Angeles has created a dangerous environment in the Skid Row area and beyond.
In April, the judge — for the second time in five months — rejected the county’s settlement offer.
In its unsuccessful petition to the 9th Circuit in May, the county had asked for a stay in proceedings and an order to compel Carter to vacate his April order, enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss the case.
The county argued that Carter’s “rulings and the court’s conduct are unprecedented. They are also clearly erroneous and exceed the bounds” of the district court’s authority.
The appeals court denied the county’s argument, and the judge set a November trial date.
The settlement builds on an agreement between Los Angeles city and county whereby the city agreed to provide 6,700 housing or shelter beds for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, especially those residing under freeway overpasses, and the county agreed to assist with funding services in the amount of $293 million.
“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,” 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. I am grateful to Judge Carter for pushing the county to do better, to my colleagues on the board and our county family for their support, and to Mayor Bass for being my partner in this effort.”
According to the results of a count conducted in January, there were 75,518 people experiencing homelessness in the county, and 46,260 in the City of Los Angeles. The figures show an increase from 69,144 in the county last year, and 41,980 in the city.
Weeks after declaring a local emergency on homelessness, the Board of Supervisors in February unanimously approved a $609.7 million budget for the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative for fiscal year 2023-24, the largest investment in any given year to date to prevent and address homelessness.
Bass recently said homeless seniors comprise one of the “fastest growing populations” of homeless residents in the city.