Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

You can declare a homelessness emergency, but Gov. Brown might not be listening

by Rina Palta | Take Two®

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 12: A homeless man walks down the street as a new day begins in the Wall Street area where the homeless have waken up before dawn to dismantle their beds and encampments before businesses open October 12, 2007 in the downtown Skid Row area of Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles city officials recently settled a 2003 lawsuit brought by advocates for homeless skid row residents who complained of being arrested for sleeping on sidewalks, despite having nowhere else to go. Under the new deal, people can sleep on Los Angeles sidewalks between 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. as long as they do not block doorways or driveways, or completely block the sidewalk. Los Angeles is often referred to as the homeless capital of the nation because of its estimated 40,144 people living on city streets and 73,000 homeless spread across the county, according to recent figures attributed to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, The 73,000 homeless include 10,000 minors, 24,505 people suffering from a mental illness, 8,453 military veterans, and nearly 7,200 victims of domestic abuse. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) David McNew/Getty Images

Homelessness is a growing problem throughout the region, and Anaheim believes it's so out of control that on Tuesday the city's leaders declared a state of emergency.

Los Angeles made a similar declaration two years ago, too.

But these cries for help may not be reaching an important person: Governor Jerry Brown.

"These calls were intended to get attention for the crisis," says Rina Palta, KPCC's reporter on the social safety net, "and they did accomplish things like ease the permitting requirements for shelters, to try to make it easier to site these things in neighborhoods."

However, the impact was largely symbolic.

Declaring a state of emergency around an event – like a natural disaster – means that localities can officially ask the state to step in and provide resources.

"That didn't work here," says Palta. "The state didn't decide to go that route and declined to provide really any new money to fight homelessness."

Sacramento lawmakers have given cities and counties some relief in recent years.

For example, they recently redirected about a billion dollars over 10 years to house those who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness who have severe mental disabilities.

But homeless advocates believe that the state isn't doing as much as it could. 

"Living in LA city and county, seeing the number of people that can't afford housing and that some of whom are now ending up homeless, I think we're just impatient," says Ruth Schwartz of Shelter Partnership. "We need to invest in solutions much sooner."

In the coming months, it's possible that money from the federal government might pour in.

"But I think there's going to be a lot of advocates for all kinds of issues – from the environment, to homelessness, to housing – who are going to see federal dollars cut," says Palta, "and they'll be looking to the state for more help."

Learn more about why state lawmakers aren't hearing the cries for help from cities and counties on homelessness. Use the audio player above.

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