Karen Bass: Encampments in LA Should Be ‘Significantly Down' in Four Years

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said today that she believes 95% of the approximately 40,000 homeless people in the city would accept housing if it’s offered to them, and said she hopes that encampments will be “significantly down, if not eliminated” in four years. 

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Bass, who declared a state of emergency on homelessness on her first day in office, was asked how her declaration would differ from a similar action taken by former Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015.

“It’s not just about the money — of course money is needed — but it’s really about the arcane bureaucratic process. You talk to developers and it’s just so difficult to get anything done,” Bass said, citing a news conference she recently held at a housing project where the builder had been working for 16 years.

“It’s about bursting past the bureaucratic maze and developers having no idea when approvals will be done, so now I’m requiring that approvals and the process be moved within 30 to 60 days,” she added. 

Bass was asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd what can be done about people who don’t want to be housed. 

“What we have found — and the community organizations that we’re bringing in to do this work — is that you can get 95% of the people housed,” she said. 

“People will go. It takes a while, you have to do outreach. People are unhoused for a variety of different reasons: Some are profoundly mentally ill, some are profoundly addicted. You have to address the reasons why they wound up unhoused while you house them.” 

The emergency declaration — which is scheduled to last six months — allows Bass to take more aggressive executive actions to confront the crisis, though the City Council will have to sign off on it every 30 days. Whether to continue the state of emergency will be evaluated by several indicators of progress, including the number of encampments and housing placements, and how much more flexibility city departments are allowed through the declaration. 

Bass also said she plans to launch the “Inside Safe” program Tuesday, which will use master leasing with motels near encampments to place unhoused people. 

Todd asked Bass how her handling of the homelessness crisis should be judged four years from now. 

“A fair way to judge it would be encampments should be significantly down, if not eliminated, and there should be housing being built, underway, at a much more rapid pace, and there should not be 40,000 people who are unhoused, that’s for sure,” Bass said.