An alliance of both housed and homeless people has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles to order thousands of beds be provided for the unsheltered.
The complaint filed Tuesday by the LA Alliance for Human Rights accuses the city of neglecting its responsibilities and investing resources in approaches that are too slow to address the homelessness problem in Los Angeles. The suit hopes to mandate that the city and county provide services for the homeless population including training, healthcare and shelter in a faster time frame.
"We really are looking to catalyze change on a systemic level," said Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the LA Alliance for Human Rights. "We are not looking to get rich. We are not looking for money. We really are looking for change."
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer's office said it is reviewing the lawsuit and does not have a comment at this time.
Despite major investment in combating the crisis, the homeless population in Los Angeles County increased to almost 60,000 people in 2019, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said in a June report.
And about 75% of those people are unsheltered, according to the complaint. In comparison, New York City -- which has a right to shelter -- has an unsheltered rate of 5%, Mitchell said.
"Officials in both the County and City have gone to great lengths in the last couple years to address this crisis, and their efforts are impressive and commendable; yet much more needs to be done," the suit says.
The problem, Mitchell said, is that Los Angeles City and County are investing in expensive programs like permanent housing, but with three people dying of the homelessness crisis per day the problem is outpacing their solutions.
To reach an additional 22,000 beds in a matter of months, the suit suggests that the city and county work together to explore options like shared housing, tiny houses, 3D printed homes and "other financially feasible options that enable rapid sheltering along with wrap-around services to empower those experiencing homelessness to reintegrate with their communities," Mitchell said in a press release.
The suit began as a grassroots effort. Downtown residents formed the LA Alliance for Human Rights last summer in response to the suffering around them and in hopes of finding new ways to "break through the barriers," the release said.
Instead of fighting through bureaucracies, the movement turned to the courts -- a system that could move more quickly and provide outside accountability, Mitchell said.
Speed is important in an issue that has economic, environmental and criminal impacts on the area, but Mitchell said everyone involved is concerned about the issue from a humanitarian perspective.
"Whether a person is on the streets of their own accord or because they lost their jobs, people can still say this shouldn't be the case and we shouldn't be leaving our people in the streets," Mitchell said.