Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the nation's street homelessness crisis, and is pushing forward with an ambitious plan to move unhoused residents from tent cities to hotels and eventually to permanent housing. Portland, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and the state of Missouri are among the other high-profile places that have recently banned or reduced tent encampments.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has declared homelessness an emergency in the city, in an effort to speed up the process for creating affordable housing and securing motel rooms. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has responded with a $60 million grant to address the city's many encampments. Additionally, HUD has awarded a total of $315 million to cities across the U.S., with LA and Chicago receiving the maximum amount.
Will Sens, who had been homeless, is an example of the success of the mayor's plan. After losing his job as a prep cook during the pandemic, he was evicted from his living situation and eventually found himself living out of a tent at Echo Park Lake. Then he was offered temporary housing in LA's Grand Hotel through Project Roomkey, and two years later was able to secure a Section 8 housing voucher and sign an apartment lease.
Critics say Bass' plan just perpetuates another cycle, as there isn't enough housing for people to access once they're in the motels and hotels. To prevent people from falling into homelessness, housing advocates say the city needs to extend the eviction moratorium permanently, and open up vacant apartments that are currently priced too high. Mayor Bass has responded with an executive order requesting a list of city-owned properties that are vacant, surplus or underutilized, which could potentially be made into housing.