How LA’s Homeless Won the Battle with Garcetti, Wesson and Feuer

@THE GUSS REPORT-Kudos to LA’s homeless population, their civil rights attorneys and poverty rights advocates, as the City of LA last week settled their lawsuit, Carl Mitchell v. Los Angeles

The case once again establishes that the LAPD and other local government agencies cannot randomly seize and dispose of their property, which often includes medicine, photo identification, legal documents, and irreplaceable family photos and contact information. 

Last Wednesday, after its usual frivolous presentations, City Council finally went into closed session for three hours to discuss settling the lawsuit. While downtown LA business advocates pressed for City Hall to take the case to trial, describing the proposed settlement as penny-wise and pound-foolish, the city predictably folded. 

Doing so further confirmed the incompetence of Mike Feuer, our Harvard Law School-educated City Attorney for failing to prevent Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council president Herb Wesson from creating and promoting homeless policies that keep getting the rest of us sued. 

The terms of the settlement have not been shared by Feuer or Wesson, both of whom ran from questions about it, while Garcetti once again traipsed through Mexico. While the settlement is described as applying only to those residing on the streets of Skid Row, it no doubt strengthens the property rights of homeless people across the city. 

And that means only one thing: the homeless problem is never going away. But why is it not getting any better? 

Garcetti, for one, lives in a fantasy world where spending millions of dollars on playground-like trailer compounds to house and care for a few dozen homeless people doesn’t even keep up with the pace of other homeless continuously arriving for our warm, (normally) dry weather and liberal tolerance of humans living in our gutters. 

Why do I describe it as Garcetti’s fantasy world? Because he recently boasted to an out-of-state audience that he was re-elected by a wide margin, which is true, while neglecting to mention LA’s embarrassingly low voter turnout, and the fact that he didn’t run against a legitimate opponent. Thus, Garcetti mistakenly takes LA’s voter apathy as a form of job approval. But the neverending, never improving homeless problem shows that Garcetti has been a colossal failure on this issue and many others. 

That’s why we keep losing on the homelessness front. 

For years, Garcetti and other officials sold us a bill of goods that if we just approve hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, they will build permanent housing for the homeless. Well, they got lots of our money, but have failed to apply it effectively. 

Instead of building permanent housing for the homeless in each district, which is often and understandably met with strong community backlash, the city should look into re-zoning and equipping empty warehouses to do the one thing everyone needs the most: get the homeless – and their companion animals – under roofs, with plumbing, electricity, security and the social services they need. 

Where empty warehouses cannot be found, the city can use large, insulated military style tents.  Bring in mobile laundry units and showers on trucks and a row of Andy Gumps, and everyone wins for far less money. 

Garcetti, Wesson and Feuer are misguided in pursuing “permanent” supportive housing for the homeless. The need has always been far more primal. 

We often hear what about the homeless who refuse to come indoors, preferring to live off the grid and on the sidewalk? My response is we should be so lucky if that was our biggest challenge. Our officials haven’t figured out how to help those who want to get off the street; later on, it can deal with those who don’t want to. 

As for their possessions, one idea might be to create bins similar to the green, blue and black trash bins used for our garbage and recyclables. Give them a unique color so that police know a homeless person’s belongings are in it. Put a padlock on each one, so they can be secured. And most importantly, put a bar code on each bin so that its owner is known and can be located after the person returns from the jail, hospital or other such appointment or activity, and limit each person to one such bin. Right now, LA’s first responders who take the homeless to jail or the hospital must take possession of, and inventory, their belongings, which is a colossal waste of time and money. 

But please, city officials, stopping failing. Failing gets us sued. Stop promising pie-in-the-sky ideas that you have no track record of accomplishing. Get down to basics by acknowledging that the needs of the homeless are primal, and address fixing them with warehouses, tents, bins and social services. Show us that you deserve the jobs to which you were elected by wisely and effectively applying our money. Show us results, not lawsuits. Get the people and animals off the streets legally, safely, respectfully and responsibly. 

Or maybe one day voters will finally start electing outsiders…

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Join his mailing list or offer verifiable tips and story ideas at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.