Ridley-Thomas pushes for ‘Right to Housing’ framework

By Sue Favor

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — As city officials work to develop a plan to get the homelessness crisis under control, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas is taking steps to ensure residents understand what will be done.

Ridley-Thomas has released two videos over the last week that explain why the City Council voted unanimously last month to develop a “Right to Housing” framework, and what it will mean for the city.

“When we talk about a ‘Right to Housing,’ we talk about creating a safety net that obligates the government to not only aid Angelenos in transitioning off the streets and into interim and permanent housing, but also to prevent homelessness in the first place,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Just as we have the right to vote and a right to clean air — every man, woman and child needs a place to call home.”

The Los Angeles County Community Investment Department is developing a draft of the Right to Housing framework for presentation to the council’s Homeless and Poverty Committee by the summertime. The plan will take a four-tiered approach that includes homelessness prevention, interim housing, permanent housing and street engagement.

Strategies for homeless prevention include rental subsidies and eviction defense. Interim and permanent housing locations can be identified and secured and engaging a higher number of the more than 41,000 estimated homeless in the city is a first step towards ensuring they are eventually housed.

Funds allotted from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan will be used toward the housing reforms.

“When I envision a better Los Angeles, I envision one that is safe, equitable and accessible — and that vision fundamentally begins with making sure no one has to sleep on a bench, sidewalk or inside a vehicle,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The number of homeless residents, both in the city and in L.A. County, has increased steadily over the last four years. When the COVID-19 pandemic rendered many jobless last year, those numbers spiked. A spokeswoman for Ridley Thomas said his plan will “change the paradigm for how homelessness is dealt with.”

“[Ridley-Thomas] believes it is the obligation of government to do more to create a comprehensive crisis response, and that starts with housing,” the spokeswoman said.

The longtime politician was elected to the 10th District council seat last November after making the homelessness crisis the pillar of his campaign. One of his first moves was to make a motion for an outreach and coordination hub for the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, and a neighboring Center for Interagency Policy and Action. Both were approved unanimously by the council.

In pushing for the Right to Housing framework, Ridley-Thomas cited state polls that show that the majority of Californians think residents should have a legally enforceable right to housing, and that the majority of voters support higher taxes on large corporations to fund the efforts.

Ridley-Thomas and his office, along with the People Concerned, recently helped 36 homeless citizens on Venice Boulevard under the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, get off the street by providing immediate interim housing. They also received mental health services and access to a long-term affordable housing plan. The effort will be the subject of Ridley-Thomas’ next informational video, out in two weeks.

Once the Right to Housing program is formally developed and launched, Ridley-Thomas sees the tides turning for homelessness in the city.

“We have the tools to end homelessness, and I am optimistic that with the mayor’s proposal to invest almost $1 billion next fiscal year, that L.A. is poised to meaningfully scale up our response in a manner that paves the way to establishing a long-term right to housing,” he said.

Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at newsroom@wavepublication.com.