Supervisors declare homelessness a state of emergency

Security member Julian Murillo, center, calls for another client to be searched as men wait to be admitted to the Santa Clarita homeless shelter. Dan Watson/Signal

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, now representing Los Angeles County District 5 and the Santa Clarita Valley, joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Wednesday in urging the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to declare a state of emergency on the issue of homelessness.

Barger and Ridley-Thomas introduced a recommendation Wednesday urging the board to declare a fiscal state of emergency due to the issue.

The recommendation called for a special election to be held March 7, 2017, so that Los Angeles County voters may consider adopting a special sales tax intended to address the declared emergency. The special tax would ensure the County has the resources it needs to preserve public health, safety and welfare.

The board adopted the recommendation.

“Supervisor Barger is strongly committedto addressing – and solving – the homeless crisis in a compassionate way that will emphasize rehabilitation, mental health, alcohol/drug treatment and housing opportunities,” Tony Bell, spokesman for Barger’s office, told The Signal Thursday.

The degree of homelessness in the Santa Clarita Valley sparked an initiative launched in February 2015 whereby city officials and deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station began conducting monthly sweeps of illegal homeless camps set up inside the Santa Clara River wash.

In the first two months of the cleanup program in 2015, sheriff’s deputies disrupted close to two dozen illegal camps in the Santa Clara River wash.

Two months shy of the two-year mark, the monthly cleanups of homeless camps in the SCV have become routine.

“We do monthly cleanups of illegal encampments in the Santa Clara River,” Gail Morgan, spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita, said Thursday.

Barger and Ridley-Thomas described the homelessness issue Wednesday as endangering “the health and safety of tens of thousands of residents, including veterans, women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth, persons with disabilities and seniors,”

In their joint motion, they told the board that Los Angeles County is “facing a grave public emergency – the pervasive and deepening homeless crisis.

“The tremendous scale of homelessness in the County threatens the economic stability of the region by burdening emergency medical services and the social services infrastructure,” the pair claimed.

“This past winter, both the County and the City of Los Angeles declared local states of emergency as it relates to the lack of shelter for homeless persons within the County and the City.

“Further, the Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to seek a statewide declaration of emergency for the State’s homeless crisis.

The County’s petition to convince the Governor to declare a state of emergency on homelessness has garnered over 27,000 signatures, according to the two supervisors.

The State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the Governor to declare a state of emergency for homelessness, they told the board in the reading Wednesday of their motion.

The City and County of San Francisco, the City of Los Angeles, and the City of Santa Rosahave also passed similar resolutions urging the Governor to declare a state of emergency on homelessness.

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