Civil rights lawyers asked the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to change rules that they say illegally and systematically knock mentally ill homeless people off the welfare rolls.
Lawyers from the Disability Rights Legal Center and other groups submitted a report to the board contending that tens of thousands of the county’s mentally ill homeless people are denied meager monthly cash benefits of $221 or dropped from the general relief program because of bureaucratic barriers.
The report argues that the county is violating state and federal disability laws. Civil rights attorney Gary Blasi said lawyers had negotiated unsuccessfully with the county for more than a year and filed the document in a final effort to avoid litigation.
The 12-page report said many people with mental disabilities “cannot bear” the long wait times, security procedures and noisy and crowded conditions in county welfare offices. Those with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder are scared off by security guards and checkpoints, and many are unable to read or follow the stacks of application papers required to sign up, the report said.
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Western Center on Law & Poverty and the law firm Morrison & Foerster are also involved in the case.