LA civic leaders pledge to fight homelessness — and NIMBYism

A crowd of hundreds gathers to hear Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis and other dignitaries pledge to support the United Way of Greater Los Angeles'
A crowd of hundreds gathers to hear Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis and other dignitaries pledge to support the United Way of Greater Los Angeles' "Everyone In" push to "end" homelessness in the city and county.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC

Listen to story

00:51
Download this story 0.0MB

Voters across Los Angeles city and county have approved millions in tax hikes in hopes of curbing the region's burgeoning homelessness crisis, including $1.2 billion for new affordable housing through the city's Measure HHH.

But winning passage for these tax hikes was the easy part, civic leaders say.

The next step: convince residents to support bringing projects and services funded by these tax increases to their own neighborhoods.

On Friday, the United Way of Greater L.A. launched a campaign meant to lead-block in city and county leader's push against NIMBYism — that is, the "Not In My Backyard" attitude that city and county officials fear will be an obstacle in trying to build the 10,000 units of affordable housing Measure HHH could pay for.

At an Echo Park launch event, a raft of celebrities, business leaders, faith leaders and public officials pledged themselves to the United Way's campaign, "Everyone In." Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis and were among the most prominent speakers.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks during the launch event for an anti-homelessness campaign on Fri., Mar. 9, 2018.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks during the launch event for an anti-homelessness campaign on Fri., Mar. 9, 2018.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC

“I’m gonna ask you some questions, and you say, ‘Count me in,’" Garcetti told the crowd gathered on the north end of Echo Park Lake. "Are you ready to show up to a hearing in your neighborhood to build housing?"

"Count me in!" the gathered crowd of around 500 people responded.

The number of homeless people living in L.A. County rose sharply last year to nearly 58,000, according to the most recent annual count.

The Everyone In campaign pledges to track the region's progress toward several goals: moving 45,000 people out of homelessness, preventing another 30,000 from entering homelessness and the creation by 2022 of 5,000 units of "supportive housing" — affordable units with on-site health and counseling services.

"We have to fast-track development to make it happen," said United Way CEO Elise Buik. "But a lot of the barrier is when people fight it in their neighborhoods. So it’s going to take all of us."

But it will take time to bring HHH-funded housing units online. In the meantime, some advocates want the city end its police sweeps of homeless tent encampments that they say "criminalizes" people living without permanent housing.

They're worried that the city's policing practices are at cross-purposes with the goal of HHH: to get homeless people into permanent housing.

Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and L.A. County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas (center) and Supervisor Hilda Solis (far right) speak during the launch event for an anti-homelessness campaign in Echo Park on Fri., Mar. 9, 2018.
Mayor Eric Garcetti (left) and L.A. County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas (center) and Supervisor Hilda Solis (far right) speak during the launch event for an anti-homelessness campaign in Echo Park on Fri., Mar. 9, 2018.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC

Jed Parriott, an organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles who led a small demonstration near Friday's Echo Park event, says many advocates fear homeless residents will end up facing criminal charges as a result of these sweeps — and that those charges could prevent them from accessing one of the 10,000 new HHH-funded affordable units.

"Who really deserves to get that 10,000? Well, maybe if you have a criminal record, maybe you're bumped down the chart," Parriott said. "And maybe you have a criminal record for something that's really small. You shouldn't be punished for being unhoused."

The sweeps "also really hurts people's ability to have hope," Parriott added.

Buik said the dependence on "temporary solutions of shelters, hotels, jails" is part of the problem.

"We have to have permanent solutions, and that's what we like about this model," she said. "It works. People stay housed. The mentally ill get treated. People transform their lives."