Los Angeles County seeks review of ruling on homelessness

Associated Press

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to join an effort to seek reversal of a court decision that restricts efforts to bar homeless people from sleeping on sidewalks in Western states.

The board’s 3-2 vote Tuesday coincided with the start of a California fundraising visit by President Donald Trump, whose assertions about homelessness include a claim that local and state officials deliberately exacerbate the homeless problem for political gain.

FILE - In this June 26, 2019, file photo, Carl Wallace, who says he is homeless and lives on the streets, waves to people passing by in Sacramento, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking President Trump to approve more housing vouchers as Trump's administration weighs in on the most populous state's massive homeless problem. The Democratic governor on Monday, Sept. 16 sent the Republican president a letter asserting that "shelter solves sleep, but only housing solves homelessness." Officials did not immediately respond.

The vote directs county lawyers draft a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against the city of Boise, Idaho. The court ruled it is unconstitutional to arrest or otherwise sanction homeless people who sleep on sidewalks when there aren’t enough shelter beds.

The brief will support Boise’s pending request for the Supreme Court to review the case, which began in 2009.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted against the motion, saying in a social media post that it would “criminalize poor people who have nowhere else to go.” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas voted in favor, saying in a statement that the situation is “a state of emergency.”

With close to 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, tent encampments can be found widely, and the state’s other metropolitan areas have similar situations.

On arrival in California on Tuesday, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One he will do “something” about homelessness but offered no specifics beyond the mention of creating a task force.

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday said he would welcome Trump’s help to end homelessness if he contributed federal dollars or property that could be converted into shelters.

“I know I’m just supposed to punch the president back but if he is real about it, I’ll believe it when I see it, but I’ll also trust that he wants to save some lives as well,” the mayor said. “Certainly, I do. We could do that together.”

Garcetti, separately speaking in a video recorded at one of an eventual 26 housing facilities being built to transition people from life on the streets, noted that the president would be in Los Angeles to raise funds for his reelection campaign.

“But I wanted to talk to him a little bit as if he had come down here to South LA to understand and to hear the challenges we face and ways that Washington, D.C. – instead of demonizing us – might be able to actually come and help us,” Garcetti said.