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County Leaders Issue Plea for 'State of Emergency' on Homelessness

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Nearly 47,000 people are homeless in the Los Angeles County area

Los Angeles County supervisors are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency over the rising number of homeless people living in California. If that sounds familiar, it's probably because city leaders announced in September plans to take similar action on the local level. That never ended up happening—largely because many felt it was unlikely to work.

Supervisors want that declaration to include $500 million for housing programs across California, along with help from state agencies to "provide housing assistance to homeless camp hotspots" in Los Angeles County.

In a statement, supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl said:

"Many homeless people are facing severe threats to their health and safety on a daily basis ... Studies indicated that premature death most often results from acute and chronic medical conditions aggravated by homeless life."

The latest homeless count found:

  • 46,874 homeless people living in the LA County area, including Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena, a 5.7 percent increase from 2015
  • The vast majority of homeless people—74 percent—were living on the streets and not in shelters, either in tents, makeshift encampments, or in cars.
  • In the city of Los Angeles, there are 28,464 homeless people, an 11 percent increase from the year prior.

The supervisors are also trying to convince Brown to find longterm funding sources. One idea is to tax millionaires. Ridley-Thomas and others are lobbying the governor to allow the county to put a measure on the state’s November ballot that would create that tax, but they haven’t been successful, the LA Times reports.

Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl said, homelessness "needs to be moved higher on (the governor's) agenda."