Audit Reveals LA Spending up to $837K to House Single Homeless Person

Commentary The Los Angeles homeless problem is getting worse, up double digits again this year to about 41,000 people. Rather than implementing common sense solutions to address the problem, L.A.’s politicians have chosen instead to use it as a pretext for implementing their progressive agenda, such as providing free, permanent government housing. The cost of this housing? As much as $837,000 per unit, according to a recent L.A. Controller audit. Many are not aware that Los Angeles’ homeless problem was exacerbated by a bizarre and disastrous decision by the progressive Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals three years ago. In the case of Martin v. City of Boise, the court ruled that a city may not enforce simple camping, vagrancy or loitering laws to remove people from sleeping on public property, such as sidewalks, beaches, and parks, unless the city can demonstrate that it provides sufficient homeless shelters. Otherwise, enforcement of such a law, the court ruled, would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” With its ruling the Ninth Circuit invented two radically new interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. First, that the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies not just to sentences imposed for crimes but can be applied to the criminal law itself. Second, by requiring cities to provide housing for the homeless before it may enforce laws to protect the safety, security, and cleanliness of its public spaces, it effectively created a constitutional right to housing, a progressive’s dream previously thought achievable only via a constitutional amendment. Boise sought to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, an effort supported by Los Angeles. However, Los Angeles did not oppose the ruling on the grounds that it misinterprets the Constitution, but rather simply because the ruling was unclear as to the guidelines for shelters that must be met (not surprising since courts are not supposed to be making new laws). “The city agrees with a central tenet of Boise, that no individual should be susceptible to punishment for sleeping on the sidewalk at night, if no alternative shelter is available,” L.A. City Attorney and mayoral candidate Mike Feuer said in explaining the city’s support of the appeal. Unhoused individuals live out of cars and R.V.’s in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times) Without a strong constitutional objection to the ruling (as should have been put forward), the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and thus the ruling continued to apply to all states within the Ninth Circuit, including California. Since the ruling, Los Angeles police have been essentially “hands off” when it comes to enforcing any laws that would normally prevent homeless encampments on city sidewalks, beaches and parks. The city could have controlled the problem by enforcing the laws during the day only, which is permitted under the ruling, thus disrupting encampments, but instead took the police off the job entirely. And now the police have been partially defunded thanks to the Black Lives Matter “defund the police” campaign. Los Angeles also could have addressed the problem by quickly putting up inexpensive temporary shelters to enable it to enforce laws against the encampments, but it has not. As L.A. City Council candidate for the Venice Beach area, Mike Newhouse, notes, “The U.S. military can put up a fully functioning city with amenities that pop up in a few days. If that’s good enough for folks who are fighting for our country, why is it not good enough for folks who are trying to get off the streets?” With no enforcement, the encampments have exploded, as have—not surprisingly—the number of homeless. The progressives would have you believe the increase is due to housing costs and “income inequality,” but the truth is, not unlike our border problem, if you allow it, they will come. Exhibit A: The neighboring city of Manhattan Beach has among the most expensive housing in the state, yet virtually no homeless problem. Why? Because they enforce the law. The progressives know this. They create the problem by allowing it, and then use the problem to impose progressive solutions. In this case, it is government-provided housing, rent control and eviction protections. A homeless encampment near the popular boardwalk area of Venice Beach, Calif., on June 9, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times) Venice Beach is home to many of Los Angeles’ homeless encampments. Most of them are on or within a few blocks of the beach, among million-dollar homes, shops, and restaurants that rely on tourist dollars and beachgoers seeking to enjoy California’s natural beauty. As anyone who lives there knows, the vast majority of the homeless are addicts and/or mentally disturbed. Because they are allowed to live there, they have no incentive to seek the help they need or to try to reconnect with family or friends. Rather than quickly building temporary

Audit Reveals LA Spending up to $837K to House Single Homeless Person

Commentary

The Los Angeles homeless problem is getting worse, up double digits again this year to about 41,000 people. Rather than implementing common sense solutions to address the problem, L.A.’s politicians have chosen instead to use it as a pretext for implementing their progressive agenda, such as providing free, permanent government housing.

The cost of this housing? As much as $837,000 per unit, according to a recent L.A. Controller audit.

Many are not aware that Los Angeles’ homeless problem was exacerbated by a bizarre and disastrous decision by the progressive Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals three years ago.

In the case of Martin v. City of Boise, the court ruled that a city may not enforce simple camping, vagrancy or loitering laws to remove people from sleeping on public property, such as sidewalks, beaches, and parks, unless the city can demonstrate that it provides sufficient homeless shelters. Otherwise, enforcement of such a law, the court ruled, would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”

With its ruling the Ninth Circuit invented two radically new interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.

First, that the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies not just to sentences imposed for crimes but can be applied to the criminal law itself. Second, by requiring cities to provide housing for the homeless before it may enforce laws to protect the safety, security, and cleanliness of its public spaces, it effectively created a constitutional right to housing, a progressive’s dream previously thought achievable only via a constitutional amendment.

Boise sought to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, an effort supported by Los Angeles. However, Los Angeles did not oppose the ruling on the grounds that it misinterprets the Constitution, but rather simply because the ruling was unclear as to the guidelines for shelters that must be met (not surprising since courts are not supposed to be making new laws).

“The city agrees with a central tenet of Boise, that no individual should be susceptible to punishment for sleeping on the sidewalk at night, if no alternative shelter is available,” L.A. City Attorney and mayoral candidate Mike Feuer said in explaining the city’s support of the appeal.

Epoch Times Photo
Unhoused individuals live out of cars and R.V.’s in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Without a strong constitutional objection to the ruling (as should have been put forward), the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and thus the ruling continued to apply to all states within the Ninth Circuit, including California.

Since the ruling, Los Angeles police have been essentially “hands off” when it comes to enforcing any laws that would normally prevent homeless encampments on city sidewalks, beaches and parks.

The city could have controlled the problem by enforcing the laws during the day only, which is permitted under the ruling, thus disrupting encampments, but instead took the police off the job entirely. And now the police have been partially defunded thanks to the Black Lives Matter “defund the police” campaign.

Los Angeles also could have addressed the problem by quickly putting up inexpensive temporary shelters to enable it to enforce laws against the encampments, but it has not. As L.A. City Council candidate for the Venice Beach area, Mike Newhouse, notes, “The U.S. military can put up a fully functioning city with amenities that pop up in a few days. If that’s good enough for folks who are fighting for our country, why is it not good enough for folks who are trying to get off the streets?”

With no enforcement, the encampments have exploded, as have—not surprisingly—the number of homeless. The progressives would have you believe the increase is due to housing costs and “income inequality,” but the truth is, not unlike our border problem, if you allow it, they will come. Exhibit A: The neighboring city of Manhattan Beach has among the most expensive housing in the state, yet virtually no homeless problem. Why? Because they enforce the law.

The progressives know this. They create the problem by allowing it, and then use the problem to impose progressive solutions. In this case, it is government-provided housing, rent control and eviction protections.

Epoch Times Photo
A homeless encampment near the popular boardwalk area of Venice Beach, Calif., on June 9, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Venice Beach is home to many of Los Angeles’ homeless encampments. Most of them are on or within a few blocks of the beach, among million-dollar homes, shops, and restaurants that rely on tourist dollars and beachgoers seeking to enjoy California’s natural beauty.

As anyone who lives there knows, the vast majority of the homeless are addicts and/or mentally disturbed. Because they are allowed to live there, they have no incentive to seek the help they need or to try to reconnect with family or friends.

Rather than quickly building temporary shelters, Los Angeles has embarked on a $1.2 billion plan, funded by a sales tax increase, to build 10,000 brand new, permanent apartments to house this ever-growing homeless population. Not surprisingly, the government-run construction project is not going according to plan. Rather than costing $120,000 per unit as budgeted, 14 percent will cost over $700,000 and some as much as $837,000 according to the audit. That is over twice the average price of a home in the United States!

Why so much? Government mismanagement, naturally, including the decision to build much of the housing where the homeless currently live, which just happens to be in some of the most expensive areas of Los Angeles. One significant project is about a block from the beach in Venice, one of L.A.’s biggest tourist destinations. The City Council is currently looking into converting a parking lot on the beach in Pacific Palisades, one of the area’s most beautiful beaches, into homeless housing. Apparently, according to Los Angeles leaders, homeless are not only entitled to free housing, but free housing on the beach among $15 million homes!

It is no wonder Los Angeles’ homeless problem gets worse and worse. Those occupying beach encampments have little concern of disturbance, and they might just be offered a new, $800,000 apartment. It pays to be homeless in L.A.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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James Breslo is a civil rights attorney and host of the "Hidden Truth Show" podcast. He was formerly a partner at the international law firm Seyfarth Shaw and public company president. He has appeared numerous times as a legal expert on Fox News and CNN.