Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Thursday called for a state of emergency due to the ongoing homeless crisis in the city, particularly around Venice Beach, Fox Los Angeles reports.
In a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Villanueva called for a local state of emergency to deal with the crisis. He had held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
"It’s a national disgrace. We are the wealthiest nation in the planet and we have such an enormous problem with homelessness, and it’s a local tragedy," Villanueva said.
''You cannot build your way out of homelessness,'' he added. ''It was the Los Angeles Homeless [Services] Authority themselves that said for every 100 that we house, they’re replaced by 120 on the street — that math seems to elude these people ... our elected officials.''
Villanueva said that the city has already spent more than double the usual $1 million on services for the homeless.
''In fact, we’re way past $2 billion this year because this is just half of one year, so the true numbers are way up here, as the problem grows, like clockwork, year after year. So, you tell me, you think it’s time to regulate public space?'' he said.
He went on to call Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Board of Supervisors ''architects of failure,'' and accused the city of having ''handcuffed the LAPD'' when it comes to preventing people from sleeping on the beach or the sidewalk.
"What’s the number one failure of local government, at the county and city level? Why every measure fails? We see the problem get bigger and bigger every year, because the city and county decided they will not regulate public space. When you don’t regulate public space, it will be occupied by somebody from somewhere," the sheriff said.
He said the situation has hurt tourism in the city.
"The destination for homeless throughout the nation is here; they are coming here to LA County, and in particular to tourist destinations like Venice, Hollywood, Olvera Street and all places in between," Villanueva said. "Right now there are tourism companies and foreign lands marking off LA as a place not to go. There is no more powerful image than people assaulting each other in broad daylight."
Councilmember Mike Bonin said in a statement after the press conference: ''Sheriff Villanueva and I are very different. I believe in treating people humanely and with dignity, whether they are housed or unhoused. I believe everyone has a right to housing, food, and healthcare, and I applaud those who provide it. And I believe (and evidence shows) that the best, most effective, least expensive way to end homelessness is with housing, not with handcuffs.''
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