De León chairs first homeless committee meeting

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee resumed meetings Nov. 15 for the first time since its former chair, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, was indicted on federal bribery and conspiracy charges and suspended from the council.

The committee is now chaired by Councilman Kevin de León, who has served on the council since October 2020, representing Skid Row, as well as Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights and Highland Park.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to lead this committee and work with everyone here,” de León said. “As the council member who represents the largest concentration of people experiencing homelessness in the United States, this issue is not philosophical to me.

“We are facing a humanitarian crisis that has gone on for far too long. For many years, we as a city accepted it, and we were OK with it as long as it was contained in a small area on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. And as it has expanded to other parts of the city, we have applied some patchwork policies that never come close to addressing the growing gargantuan problem that is homelessness.”

The committee advanced a series of motions to issue tax-exempt bonds for permanent supportive housing projects that will provide a collective 347 units for people experiencing homelessness.

The committee also voted to authorize a contract with the homeless services nonprofit Urban Alchemy to operate a 109-bed Tiny Home Village at 2301 W. Third St. in a part of Westlake represented by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

It also moved forward a motion introduced by de León to lease a vacant property in downtown Los Angeles from the state to provide interim housing for people experiencing homelessness as they transition into permanent housing.

This was a great beginning to our committee’s renewed efforts to accelerate the production of housing with a sense of urgency to ensure unhoused Angelenos get a roof over their heads,” de León said in a statement after the meeting. “Today’s efforts should be a signal to the people of Los Angeles that the time for studying and analyzing homelessness is over. We are taking action to pick up the pace to get people housed and get our streets and parks cleaned up.”

The committee’s membership was changed following Ridley-Thomas’ suspension from the City Council on Oct. 20. The councilman was indicted on federal corruption and bribery charges on Oct. 13 related to his time as a Los Angeles County supervisor.

Council President Nury Martinez named de León chair of the committee, with Councilwoman Nithya Raman named vice chair.

Solving the city’s homelessness crisis is simply not possible without housing,” Raman said. “For too long, we have talked about building permanent supportive housing without a true concerted effort to make it a reality. I am proud that today we are changing that narrative and moving ahead to fund [permanent supportive housing] projects that will transform the lives of hundreds of Angelenos currently struggling to survive on our city’s streets.”

Councilman Bob Blumenfield was appointed to the committee to fill the fifth seat left vacant by Ridley-Thomas’ suspension. Blumenfield said during the meeting that Ridley-Thomas was “a giant in this area of homelessness, and I don’t pretend to fill his shoes as a member of this committee.”

But I will lean in and do everything that I can. I’m a believer that everyone has a right to a roof over their head. I truly believe that. But I also believe that you don’t have a right to every park bench, and that we have to find that balance where we’re providing services and housing and we need to step up our game even more,” Blumenfield said.

Along with de León, Raman and Blumenfield, the committee includes Councilman Joe Buscaino and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.

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