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L.A. County Proposes New Bid to Settle Homelessness Lawsuit

Published on Monday, September 25, 2023 | 6:01 pm

Homeless man [File photo]
Los Angeles County and the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights have reached a new proposed settlement of a lawsuit over local governments’ response to the homelessness crisis, and it appears to meet recent demands of the judge overseeing the case, according to court documents filed Monday.

U.S. District Judge David Carter has rejected previous efforts to settle, denying the county and the homelessness coalition’s joint stipulation to dismiss the case, saying he wanted more “oversight and enforcement powers.”

According to Monday’s filing, Carter is getting what he asked for, including the county’s promise to fund 3,000 new mental health/substance use disorder beds, subsidies for 450 new clients of residential care facilities for indigent adults and the elderly, and, significantly, the appointment of a retired federal judge to monitor the county’s compliance with the settlement.

“The previous settlement the parties presented to the Court already provides a thousand new beds and enhanced services for people experiencing homelessness with substance use disorder or mental illness,” Mira Hashmall, outside counsel for L.A. County in the case, said in a statement. “We hope the new settlement, which is set for hearing Thursday, will end this three-year-old case and allow us to focus our funding and efforts on alleviating the homelessness crisis.”

The new settlement bid comes a month after a federal appeals court rejected the county’s effort to compel Carter to sign off on the previous settlement proposal.

In its March 2020 lawsuit, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights alleged that inaction by the city and county of Los Angeles has created a dangerous environment in the Skid Row area and beyond.

The plaintiffs settled with the city last June in an agreement approved by Carter.

In April, the judge — for the second time in five months — rejected the county’s settlement offer.

The county then attempted to stay proceedings while it prepared to appeal Carter’s denial to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Carter also denied that effort.

In its petition to the 9th Circuit, filed in May, the county asked for a stay in proceedings and an order to compel Carter to vacate his April order, enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss the case.

The county argued in the petition that Carter’s “rulings and the court’s conduct are unprecedented. They are also clearly erroneous and exceed the bounds” of the district court’s authority.

In its order, the appeals court denied the county’s request for a “writ of mandamus” requiring Carter to grant its settlement agreement and permanently dismiss the case.

A tentative trial date was set in November.

The new proposal — which is expected to be the subject of a hearing in Los Angeles federal court on Thursday — builds on an agreement between Los Angeles city and county whereby the city agreed to provide 6,700 housing or shelter beds for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, especially those residing under freeway overpasses, and the county agreed to assist with funding services in the amount of $293 million.

If Carter approves the settlement, he would sign off on dismissal of the lawsuit.

According to the results of a count conducted in January, there were 75,518 people experiencing homelessness in the county, and 46,260 in the city of Los Angeles. The figures show an increase from 69,144 in the county last year, and 41,980 in the city.

Weeks after declaring a local emergency on homelessness, the Board of Supervisors in February unanimously approved a $609.7 million budget for the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative for fiscal year 2023-24, the largest investment in any given year to date to prevent and address homelessness.

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass recently said that unhoused seniors comprise one of the “fastest growing populations” of homeless residents in the city.

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