L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in as the City Council considered the ACLU/SC's unresolved homelessness lawsuit yesterday. A federal court ruled in April that the city's law banning homeless from sitting or sleeping on the street was unconstitutional as long as no other shelter existed.
In a letter to the City Council, the mayor urged a settlement of the lawsuit that would increase "permanent supportive housing and services, as well as law enforcement focused on crime not homelessness." The mayor supported the ACLU/SC's position that arresting homeless who have no access to shelter beds is indefensible. "Particularly in light of an acknowledged shortage of shelter beds, arresting people for sleeping outside is tantamount to criminalizing poverty, mental illness, chemical addiction, and the other causes of homelessness," he wrote.
The letter addressed critics of the settlement whose opposition "stems from misinformation." After receiving the mayor's letter, the City Council agreed not to vote on a proposed settlement.
"We have always believed a plan for L.A.'s homeless must include comprehensive services," said ACLU/SC executive director Ramona Ripston. "We are pleased the mayor has reminded the council that law enforcement alone won't fix this regional problem. We hope his involvement will move us toward a real solution to homelessness and away from a police-oriented strategy even the chief says won't work."