L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Calls for ‘State of Emergency’ on Homeless Crisis

Alex Villanueva (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty)
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva wrote to the L.A. Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to ask them to declare a “state of emergency” on the local homeless crisis, saying that “failed policies” were causing death on the streets.

Villanueva has recently adopted a more assertive approach, vowing to clear homeless encampments from the Venice Beach area and standing up to the L.A. City Council on its failure to contain the spread of tent cities throughout the city.

This week, he stepped up his efforts by calling on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to act, in a press conference:

In a letter to the board, Villanueva said (original emphasis):

Since taking office [in 2018], I have watched state, county, and local government fail to address the homeless crisis affecting the residents of Los Angeles County … Despite spending in excess of $6.5 billion over the last ten years to address the issue, and the creation and efforts of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), nothing has changed. In fact, the homeless problem has only grown by approximately 20 percent each year. According to LAHSA’s 2020 count, Los Angeles County had over 66,000 persons experiencing homelessness living in our streets. Conservative estimates for 2021 put the figure over 80,000 persons.

Having participated in the homeless count, visiting areas affected by this crisis, participating in many community meetings, speaking with business leaders and residents, common sense is telling us the failed formula applied year after year to address the problem is NOT working.

I strongly urge the Board of Supervisors (Board) to declare a local state of emergency on the homeless crisis. Los Angeles County is experiencing an influx of transients from across the nation taking advantage of our services. Needless to say, these individuals are taking valuable services away from our local homeless population and creating further hardship on our communities. We have homeless individuals dying everyday [sic] on our streets because they are not getting the services they need. Failed policies, self-interest groups, and political agendas are enabling a national crisis to fester within our communities.

The Board needs to tap into all available state/federal funding and resources to help the residents of our beloved County. Because of this national crisis, the Board should consider applying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an era where “defunding” the police is a popular term used by a vocal minority, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) needs the necessary funds to prevent the catastrophic loss of human life and address the existential threats we are facing.

Villanueva has also opposed left-wing efforts to “defund the police,” citing homicide rates that have nearly doubled since last year amid budget cuts to local police departments, and promising to issue more concealed carry permits to residents.

Thus far, the City of Los Angeles and the State of California have struggled to deal with homelessness. The homeless population skyrocketed in 2019, the last year for which data are available. During the pandemic, they paid for hotel rooms for homeless people, and even bought hotels — a policy they have touted as a success, but which has failed to stem the growth of homeless encampments in parks and even on city sidewalks.

Local City Council member Mike Bonin is facing a possible recall election after proposing to use beach parking lots as “temporary” homeless shelters.

Dr. Drew Pinsky warned in 2019 that the homeless crisis could create an outbreak of bubonic plague, after an outbreak of typhus near City Hall. He suggested bringing in FEMA to help — an approach that Villanueva seems to have adopted.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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