City leaders from across the country arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Nov. 8, for a two-day U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering to discuss the challenges in addressing homelessness.
The conference is meant to coordinate a national strategy to combat the crisis, share successful practices and build national momentum to address the issue.
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, who chairs the USCM’s Homelessness Task Force, will lead a Wednesday evening discussion alongside Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, who is president of the USCM.
“When mayors come together and unite around a common issue that all of our cities are facing, we can make national change,” Bass said in a statement. “Many of our cities are facing similar barriers to moving unhoused people inside and together we will knock those barriers down.”
Bass emphasized that there are consequences “of inaction” and said that confronting homelessness is a matter of “life and death.”
Schieve added, “As a nation, we have not made housing a priority, and the results have been devastating for too many of our fellow Americans who go unhoused.”
American cities are on the “front lines” of addressing the nation’s homelessness crisis, which involve addressing a mental health crisis, too, Schieve said.
Bass, who was named chair of the USCM’s Homelessness Task Force in June, has made addressing homelessness and affordable housing key priorities of her administration since she became mayor nearly a year ago.
Actions Bass has taken since she became mayor include:
- Declaring a homelessness emergency in the nation’s second-largest city her first day as mayor.
- Issuing an executive directive her first week in office to fast-track the construction of affordable housing units and shelters by streamlining review processes. The directive was later clarified after developers found a loophole to propose projects where they weren’t intended to be built. Nevertheless, the directive has resulted in the accelerated review of over 8,000 affordable housing units, according to Bass’ office.
- Launching Inside Safe, an initiative to move people living on the streets into motel and hotel rooms as temporary housing. To date, the program has housed more than 17,000 Angelenos, Bass’ office reported this month. It’s unclear, though, how many people left the program before being placed into permanent housing.
- Courting members of the Biden administration to support the city’s efforts to address homelessness, including inviting officials to visit L.A. Earlier this year, the Biden administration selected L.A. as one of five cities, plus the state of California, to participate in its ALL INside initiative to prevent and reduce homelessness.
- Advocating for a historic investment of $1.3 billion in the city’s current fiscal year budget to combat the homelessness crisis. The City Council approved this amount in May.
- Advocating, alongside other big city mayors in California, for more homeless funding for the state’s Homekey program, as well as mental health and substance abuse beds during a meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers this past spring.
- Having her administration work with city councilmembers to develop a spending plan for the first $150 million in Measure ULA funds to support housing and homelessness prevention programs. This includes a renters assistance program to help tenants unable to pay rent that they owe and related assistance for small landlords who are owed rent.
- Leading a historic delegation that included six members of the City Council to meet with federal officials in Washington, D.C. last month to discuss homelessness and other pressing issues.
- Signing an executive directive on Wednesday, Nov. 8, to incentivize speedier construction of housing for all income levels, with an emphasis on affordable and mixed-income housing. The directive also aims to address barriers to home ownership and to convert existing buildings into housing.
On Thursday, mayors are expected to continue their talks, engage with researchers, nonprofit leaders and federal officials, including White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden.
Mayors will also tour Skid Row to see the “magnitude of the crisis,” as well as visit the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village to see a “successful example” of eliminating barriers to building temporary housing, officials said.
“It is past time for America to have a national answer that is flexible enough to meet the homelessness and housing insecurity needs on the local level,” Tom Cochran, USCM’s CEO and executive director, said in a statement. “Mayors have been sounding the alarm on this for years. We must protect people from ending up out on the street,”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more.
Source : Los Angeles Daily News