The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by multiple Los Angeles, California, residents and community leaders last year that called for the city to provide shelter for the large population of homeless people in the area.
Data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) showed that in 2020, 1,383 homeless people died in the city, while Skid Row, located in Downtown Los Angeles, is home to one of the biggest concentrations of homeless people in the whole of the US.
In the 110-page order published on Tuesday, judge David O Carter criticised city officials for not preventing a rapid increase in homelessness in Los Angeles over the last few years, during which encampments have spread into neighbourhoods across the city.
“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Mr Carter wrote in the brief.
“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis – that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” he added.
The judge made the filing just one day after the city’s mayor Eric Garcetti announced his budget for the next year, which included $1bn (£717m) set aside for tackling homelessness in Los Angeles.
In the brief on Tuesday, judge Carter ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow,” adding that a spending plan must be “accounted for and reported to the Court within seven days”.
Mr Carter also mandated that an auditor examine all of the public funds spent on tackling homelessness over the past few years, including money spent on housing projects that are yet to be completed.
He ordered that the city alongside Los Angeles County provide housing for every woman and child currently living on Skid Row within 90 days, and find all homeless people in the downtown area a place to stay by 18 October.
Skip Miller, an attorney representing Los Angeles County, responded to Mr Carter’s brief, by saying that the order “goes well beyond” what was asked for by plaintiffs in the preliminary injunction.
“We’re now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal,” Mr Miller said, adding that millions has already been spent on “proven strategies that have produced measurable results throughout the region, not just on Skid Row”.
Mayor Garcetti called the timeline in the judge’s order an “unprecedented pace”, but confirmed that he would not comment fully until he has had time to properly analyse the brief.
Homelessness in the US has seen a rise over the last few years, as there was a 12.7 per cent increase in the rate of people experiencing homelessness across the country in 2020.
LAHSA data shows that there were more than 66,000 people in the Greater Los Angeles area experiencing homelessness in 2020, as new encampments were created all across the city.
— With additional reporting from The Associated Press
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