Politics

Homeless shelters can now stay open year-round in Los Angeles without permission

File: A person sleeps on a sidewalk in Los Angeles.
File: A person sleeps on a sidewalk in Los Angeles.
Arrels Fundació via Flickr

Nonprofit organizations and religious institutions in Los Angeles can now operate homeless shelters 24/7, 365 days a year without seeking the city’s permission. In the past, emergency shelters could only operate four months out of the year — during the winter months. On Wednesday, the L.A. City Council extended that window year-round, the motion's co-author City Councilman Mike Bonin told KPCC.

“There's no logical reason that we didn't have this in place already,” Bonin said. “If there were an earthquake and tens of thousands of people were sleeping on the street, we would respond immediately.”

The motion, declaring a homeless shelter crisis over the next year, goes into effect immediately, he said. The council’s motion cites figures from the 2016 Homeless Count released by the L.A. Homeless Services Authority as the main indication of a need for year-round emergency shelters. In 2016, the city had 28,000 homeless people, according to the count.

Of those, 21,000 were considered "unsheltered" on any given night. The city’s current shelter inventory is just 9,230 beds, according to the motion. 

Several weeks ago, Bonin and City Councilman Jose Huizar amended L.A.’s planning code to line up with California state law, allowing cities to declare year-long homeless shelter crises. The amendment mainly eliminates seasonal limitations and other strict conditions from L.A.'s shelter laws, Bonin said.