Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday pressured the head of the county’s homeless initiative and other county leaders to act more quickly to clean up RV encampments and rehouse those residents.
In January, the Board of Supervisors approved an emergency homeless proclamation and demanded that key departments come together to urgently address a crisis that has only worsened and complicated. The move followed a similar statement from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
But on Tuesday it became clear that supervisors felt department heads had not acted with a sense of urgency. They were openly dismayed by reports that department leaders were still operating in silos, which has been a long-standing struggle of the massive bureaucracy charged with governing America’s largest county.
Board President Janice Hahn pointed to Hurricane Hilary and how at the emergency operations center, city and county officials set up a “war room, basically” and sent out updates every hour. All employees were on high alert in case the worst happened, she said.
The January proclamation, Hahn said, was supposed to communicate to county leaders that supervisors wanted that same sense of urgency to address homelessness.
“If 70,000 people were displaced because of a flood, … a hurricane, an earthquake, a hurricane, we would all have to get to work until every one of those people had a roof over their head,” said Hahn, whose The 4th District includes Long Beach and several cities in southeastern Los Angeles County.
Last September, supervisors asked several departments to develop a 36-month plan to address RV encampments throughout Los Angeles County. Supervisors wanted to see county workers interact annually with at least 500 people living in RVs and dismantle at least 900 RVs that were inoperable during the pilot program.
But it took county workers 11 months to reach their first camp. In August, as part of the county’s new Pathway Home camp housing program, county workers went to an RV camp in unincorporated Lennox to clean it up and house its 59 residents.
County CEO Fesia Davenport, who oversees the county’s $44 billion budget, said one of the reasons these things take so long is a question of authority. Even if supervisors create a homeless initiative with an executive director, that person does not have the authority to order department heads to act.
“So what happens is they get together again and again. [with department heads]”And it becomes a negotiation, and I get it, collaboration is helpful and necessary, but sometimes you need to have whoever decides make the decision,” Davenport said.
Cheri Todoroff, who has served as executive director of the county’s Homeless Initiative for about two years, said finding vacant lots for residents’ mobile homes once they were persuaded to abandon them has been a tremendous challenge.
But the supervisors responded that they did not want the RVs to be saved.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose Fifth District includes Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley, said that when supervisors previously called for action on RV campgrounds, they didn’t want to see those vehicles transported to a tow yard where someone could buy and rent them. again, alluding to the growing problem of “vanlords” renting recreational vehicles to homeless people.
Barger asked if the county could offer gift cards to essentially buy recreational vehicles to residents who don’t want to move.
“We need to come up with creative solutions to be able to tow them away and destroy them,” Barger said.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell said her second district, which includes coastal cities Inglewood and Compton, has the most RVs: 2,000 of the estimated 7,000 in the county.
Other supervisor districts have cities that “are dealing with the situation very simply by putting up no parking signs,” pushing mobile home dwellers to move to unincorporated areas, such as East Gardena in Mitchell’s district.
This has meant major trash and sanitation issues that residents and business owners have had to deal with for far too long, Mitchell said.
“I am clear that my community is at a very dangerous tipping point,” Mitchell said.
Supervisor Hilda Solís agreed that she is hearing similar conversations. “I’ve never seen so much displeasure” from residents, Solis said.