Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is taking proactive steps toward a lasting solution for the city’s homelessness crisis. The homelessness issue, fueled by a lack of affordable housing and compounded by mental health and addiction problems exacerbated by poverty, is pronounced in highly populated areas like New York and Los Angeles. These cities account for around 40% of the country’s unhoused population.

Last year, Mayor Karen Bass, recognizing the urgent need for action, ran and won the election with a promise to house approximately one-third of Los Angeles’ 46,000 homeless individuals by the end of the year. Implementing this commitment began on Mayor Bass’s first day in office. She declared a state of emergency, marking the initiation of her housing relief program, “Inside Safe.” The program successfully transitioned nearly 2,000 people off the streets, contributing to a broader effort that placed almost 22,000 Los Angeles residents into temporary housing. This was a significant increase from the previous year.

However, challenges still lie in the scarcity of affordable housing stock. While temporary solutions like motel rooms have been provided to those transitioning from the streets, only 3,500 unhoused individuals have found permanent housing as of November 2023. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Mayor Bass issued an executive order on November 1, allowing “Inside Safe” to utilize vacant residential hotel rooms as interim housing while expediting the construction of affordable housing.

Barbara Schultz, Director of Housing and Justice at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, cautions against repurposing already limited permanent units. She has cited a substantial need for 456,000 more housing units in the city, with nearly 200,000 required for low-income residents. Navigating the complexities of funding sources and specific community needs further complicates the task at hand. At Summit View Apartments, an affordable housing building catering to homeless veterans, the challenge lies in securing support from various entities to provide necessary services. These include the city, county, state, federal government, and private investors.

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President and CEO of the non-profit L.A. Family Housing, Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, has emphasized the need for direct investment in housing to combat homelessness effectively. Secretary Marcia Fudge at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also acknowledged the need to streamline processes for building new affordable housing, asserting that direct investment is crucial to making a lasting impact on homelessness.

The Biden administration has set an ambitious goal of reducing homelessness by 25% in the next two years. They intend to focus on initiatives such as raising the value of housing vouchers and allocating $50 million to support homeless youth. On the local level, Mayor Bass has worked to expedite the construction of affordable housing in Los Angeles, reducing permit processing time to 37 days for 100% affordable housing projects. She has also sponsored bills in the State Assembly to create more permanent housing, allowing the use of vacant public properties for affordable housing construction.

With an eye on major upcoming events like the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the 2028 Olympics, Mayor Bass hopes to leverage the city’s energy to address homelessness comprehensively. This could help ensure that Los Angeles presents an equitable and fair housing system to the world.