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L.A. Struggles With Homeless ‘Emergency’

Nearly two months after Los Angeles leaders vowed to combat a growing homeless problem by spending an extra $100 million and declaring an emergency, the city is still struggling with how to move forward.

Politicians in the nation’s second-largest city drew national attention when they declared a war on homelessness Sept. 22. But until Tuesday, when the city council voted 14-0 to have the city attorney draft an ordinance declaring a shelter emergency, little had happened, and questions remain about where the money would come from, as well as what a state of emergency would entail.

The city’s plodding efforts have disheartened some homeless advocates and critics, who say they are concerned that it was all a political stunt.

“There is no state of emergency, and there is no $100 million,” said Gary Blasi

In recent years, Los Angeles has seen a sizable increase in its homeless population, which has spurred residents and business owners to testify about the nuisances homeless encampments have created.

There were 25,686 homeless people in the city in 2015, a 12% increase from 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. In 2014, Los Angeles had the highest concentration of homeless people in big cities without any kind of shelter, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In asking the city attorney to draft a sweeping ordinance Tuesday, Los Angeles took the first step toward declaring a shelter emergency, not a natural-disaster emergency, as some city council members and outside observers had hoped. The city also passed a resolution opening a bank account to deposit the $100 million.

The shelter crisis declaration could do some notable things, Mr. Blasi said, making available property owned by the city to be used to house the homeless. But it wouldn’t be like asking for emergency assistance from state and federal authorities, as with a natural disaster.

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