LOS ANGELES, California — Newly-inaugurated Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has set a goal of moving 17,000 homeless people off the streets in her first year in office — roughly 40% of the total homeless population.
Bass was elected in a close race against billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who forced the issue of homelessness, long neglected by L.A. politicians, to the forefront. She was vague about her plans during the campaign.
Since being inaugurated, however, Bass has been visibly devoting energy to the issue — even if her policy is simply a continuation of the failed approach of her predecessor, Eric Garcetti: put the homeless in hotels.
Politico describes Bass’s policy as putting homeless people in motels and paying for their rooms with city-funded vouchers until policymakers can come up with some other solution to homelessness in L.A.:
Bass’ strategy — to move thousands of people into motels as a stopgap measure while the city works out a long-term fix — is being closely watched by elected officials from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden have made tackling homelessness centerpieces of their policy agendas this year, and progress in Southern California would play an outsize role in improving overall numbers. Susan Rice, Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, spent a weekend with Bass last month discussing the crisis and meeting with residents.
Of the 230,000 unsheltered homeless people across the U.S., one in five is in Los Angeles County — and most live in the city of Los Angeles.
Veteran local officials have taken note of Bass’ ability to coordinate fractious governmental bodies, a skill she honed as a community organizer and leader of the state Assembly, where she befriended Republicans like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
It remains to be seen whether Bass will succeed. Homelessness is the result of a variety of causes: drugs, mental illness, the high cost of housing, and social welfare policies that create incentives to rely on public assistance.
Homelessness exploded under Garcetti, who declared a “war on homelessness” in 2015 but did little to solve it.
The pandemic provided an opportunity for city and state leaders to move homeless people into hotels, funded with cash from federal coronavirus relief. However, some homeless people moved back out onto the street, and the policy continued a pattern of welfare policies that critics say has brought more homeless people to the state.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, who is well-known for his punditry, has led calls for the federal government to intervene, setting up an emergency response to clear the streets while addressing mental illness and drug addiction.
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 new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.