Politics

Los Angeles can't keep up with housing needs from homeless population

Homeless women prepare for another day and night on the street near Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2015.
Homeless women prepare for another day and night on the street near Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2015.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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Los Angeles officials want to get more of its ballooning homeless population into permanent homes, but during a meeting of the city's new homelessness committee this week, council members were reminded that L.A. is far short of the housing it needs.

Helmi Hisserich from the city’s housing department said L.A. would need to build at least 1,500 new units a year to meet demand.

"At the moment, we are able to produce about 300 units of new permanent supportive housing, so we’re way off the mark," Hisserich said. 

Pressure to provide permanent housing is coming from the federal government, which cities count on for funding homeless services.

Local housing officials and homeless advocates told city council members there is not enough funding for the housing — and too much red tape.

Kevin Murray, who heads the Weingart Center Association for homeless people on Skid Row, said the city’s planning department should move homeless housing projects to the front of the line. 

"Should someone who is helping the city meet a priority need of homeless housing have to wait behind someone who is trying to raise their fence from six feet to eight feet?" Murray said. 

Murray said major changes are needed to cope with a homeless crisis that he likened to a natural disaster.

Councilmember Mike Bonin agreed, and said he’d be calling on the council to declare a state of emergency. He noted that when the committee first met in June, at least three of the members of had expressed a similar interest in doing so.

"Three months later, we're still talking about how we need to declare a state of the emergency," Bonin said. "I think we need to actually, legitimately declare a state of emergency."