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City Council releases $2.7M for Skid Row bathrooms, outreach teams

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The area’s councilmember acknowledges that the money should have come sooner

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The Los Angeles City Council directed $2.7 million toward homeless services on Skid Row Friday, a week after county officials announced a 16 percent increase in the city’s population of unhoused residents.

That will pay for two new teams of outreach workers, upgrades to a storage center where homeless residents can keep their belongings, new drinking fountains, and attended restrooms.

Last year, the city received $85 million in emergency funding from the state to address the homelessness crisis. Of that, $20 million was set aside specifically for programs in Downtown LA’s Skid Row area, which is home to the largest concentration of homeless residents in Los Angeles.

So far, less than half of that money has been spent—including the funds approved Thursday.

At Friday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the Downtown area, acknowledged that more urgency is necessary.

“This is not even beginning to scratch the surface,” said Huizar. “We got the money a year ago, and we are now allocating it this late.”

Huizar spokesperson Rick Coca tells Curbed that bureaucracy has been slowing down release of the funds.

“Clearly the task now is to make sure this system that we created is responding quicker and with much greater urgency at all levels,” he writes in an email.

One of the projects the council agreed to fund Friday is the expansion and relocation of the ReFresh Spot, a 24-hour facility where residents can use the bathroom, shower, and do laundry.

Skid Row activists have been pushing for the project for months, and in March promised to keep speaking out at committee meetings until city officials made it happen. Huizar also introduced a motion Friday that would formally pave the way for the hygiene center’s move from its current location to a larger facility nearby.

He also called for more state funding to be directed toward the Skid Row area in the future, though only a little over $8 million of the original $20 million has been budgeted so far. A motion introduced Friday would earmark another $2.7 million for emergency housing and more public bathroom access, bringing the total to $11 million.

“If we do receive [additional state funding], we have to get that money out the door quickly and create a triage-like response to the humanitarian crisis on Skid Row,” Huizar told the council.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health recommended additional public toilets in Skid Row and beyond, in order to address “unsafe and unsanitary conditions” observed by health inspectors.