COMMUNITY REPORT: Blazing a trail on the road to ending homelessness

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By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

Through the struggle, isolation and loss of the last almost two years, I see a bright glimmer of hope. I find it in our work to bring unhoused Angelenos off the streets.

There are a few reasons I feel optimistic about our fight to end homelessness — a fight that we kept up throughout the pandemic.

We have unprecedented resources: For the first time ever, our federal and state partners stepped up with a FEMA-level response. And this year, the city is making an historic investment of over $1 billion in housing and homelessness solutions.

We also have 10 times the number of outreach workers in Los Angeles that we did when I first became mayor and, because voters passed Proposition HHH in 2016, we are building the housing that we need to solve homelessness.

It’s not just that our city finally has the dollars — and the tools — to take on this crisis. We also have effective programs that are working to bring people indoors.

Programs like the one that I recently announced called CIRCLE, which stands for Crisis and Incident Response through Community-Led Engagement and is currently being piloted in Venice and Hollywood.

It’s based on a simple truth: We will never arrest our way out of this crisis. Yet, when there is concern for a person on the street who is intoxicated, inadequately clothed or loitering on private property, the call goes out to the Los Angeles Police Department.

With CIRCLE, instead of deploying police officers to these non-emergency calls, we’re sending out trained, unarmed professionals to connect folks to the services they need.

Another new approach that has shown real promise is Encampment to Home, which is a model for engaging folks, storing their belongings, cleaning up the areas where they’ve been living and moving them indoors.

This model has been used at Echo Park Lake, Venice Beach, MacArthur Park and Westchester Park — and resulted in more than 600 people being housed and the removal of a quarter of a million pounds of solid waste from these sites.

Because of Encampment to Home, people are in a warm place with food and services. Crime and tent fires are no longer happening. And our sidewalks and parks are once again safe, clean and accessible to everyone.

In the coming months, we will be working to bring this model to other parts of the city, with a particular focus on communities of color.

It’s been such a hard road, and there’s no question: We still see too many of our neighbors sleeping in tents in our neighborhoods and under freeway overpasses. This is a humanitarian crisis and I share the frustration and heartache of my fellow Angelenos.

But I am also hopeful about the future because I know that, until very recently, we did not have the means or the pathway to solve homelessness.

Today we have built the highway. We have built the car and we have a full tank of gas. And we are moving down the road at a good speed. Nobody should fool themselves into thinking this will be a quick journey, but we are absolutely headed in the right direction — and as long as we keep refueling the car — we will get there.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.

 

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