In her ongoing effort to secure federal support to address the city’s homeless crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, courted another member of the Biden Administration in town to hear firsthand from those on the streets and service providers working to help them.
Bass welcomed Jeff Olivet, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Together, they toured Skid Row, visited an encampment where individuals were preparing to move into temporary housing offered through L.A.’s Inside Safe initiative, and met with service providers and government agencies to discuss federal policies on homelessness and substance abuse.
Bass and Olivet later visited the Hilda Solis Care First Village near Chinatown to check out interim housing for the homeless that was built with shipping containers.
Since the Biden Administration announced a national goal of reducing homelessness 25% by 2025, Bass has repeatedly made clear she wants federal officials to invest in the nation’s second-largest city.
“We wanted you to know that if the White House goal was to reduce homelessness in the United States by 25%, if you come to the (homeless) epicenter of the country, you can actually make a significant dent in achieving that goal,” Bass said, directing her remarks to Olivet at a news conference outside the Asian American Drug Abuse Program near the Crenshaw District.
Olivet acknowledged that reducing homelessness by 25% over the next couple of years is “ambitious” and indicated that he believed L.A. would be a major player in that effort.
The federal goal, he said, “is one that we will not and cannot reach without Los Angeles. As your work goes, so will our work go nationally.”
“And I believe, right down to my core,” he continued, “that we can solve homelessness right here in Los Angeles. And if we can solve it here, we can solve it anywhere.”
Before the news conference, Bass and Olivet joined a roundtable discussion hosted by the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, where participants later said it’s critical to recognize that homelessness can’t be solved unless individuals battling mental health or substance abuse get treatment for their illnesses.
“If we do not address substance abuse and mental health, we are kidding ourselves in our ability to end homelessness in Los Angeles,” Bass said.
The mayor said she learned Tuesday that one barrier to getting unhoused people sober is that, under current federal regulations, a person can stay in a residential drug treatment program for no more than 90 days.
“We need to have flexibility so that individuals who are not ready, who are not clean and sober after 90 days, can stay longer,” said Bass, noting that individuals were once allowed to stay up to 12 months in such programs.
She also noted that no more than 16 people can stay at one time in a residential treatment facility – an outdated regulation Bass said should be revamped. She said she hopes the federal government will consider issuing waivers from such regulations when there is an emergency.
Bass, in her first action as mayor in December, declared a local state of emergency on homelessness.
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Olivet did not commit to relaxing federal regulations during the news conference but later said he’s noticed a greater sense of urgency in recent times among government leaders to address the homelessness crisis, noting that “public sympathy is wearing thin” and “public outrage is growing.”
Tuesday’s event was the second time in as many weeks that Bass has highlighted local partnerships with the federal government in addressing homelessness.
Last week, she held a news conference to announce that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had awarded the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority $60 million to support local efforts to address the homelessness crisis.