Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said over the weekend that she wants to eliminate the homeless encampments that are plaguing the city’s streets through the state of emergency that she declared on her first day in office.
Bass made the remarks during a Sunday interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” with host Chuck Todd.
Bass claimed that 95% of the city’s 40,000 homeless people would accept taxpayer-funded public housing if it was offered to them.
When asked by Todd if she would allow LAPD and sanitation officers to continue doing sweeps of the encampments, she said, “no” and that she wanted to put the homeless people into hotels.
“No, these are not sweeps at all. This is getting people to move on their own, but then after the person leaves sanitation is absolutely going to have to be there,” she said. “No question about it. But this is not coercing people. This is not ticketing people or incarcerating people. This is moving people from tents to hotels or motels.”
“Are you still going to allow LAPD and sanitation officers to do these sweeps of [homeless] encampments?”
Democrat Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass: “No…this is moving people from tents to hotels or motels.” pic.twitter.com/ETAI0bPda4
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 18, 2022
CHUCK TODD: And joining me now from Los Angeles is the former member of Congress and VP short-lister to Joe Biden, by the way, the new mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass. Mayor Bass, congratulations and welcome back to Meet The Press.
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
CHUCK TODD: I want to start with what’s going to be different this time. And what I mean by this time is, in 2015 — this was pre-pandemic, obviously — Eric Garcetti declared a version of a state of emergency. Not quite the same as what you declared. Yours is a bit more comprehensive. But it freed up $100 million and tried to tackle the homeless problem that he was dealing with back in 2015. It didn’t work. What’s going to make what you’re doing more successful than what Mayor Garcetti attempted to do?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Well, I think a few things. First of all, 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. So when I declared a state of emergency and issued following executive directives, it basically allows the process to be centralized. It allows time certain for building. Chuck, the other day I did a press conference on a piece of land where the builder had been working for 16 years and had just finally broken ground. So 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.
CHUCK TODD: There’s a few issues that people run into all the time when it comes to dealing with the homeless in the city. The biggest one is, What do you do about people that don’t want to leave, that don’t want to move, that don’t want to go into shelters?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Well, you know, what we have found in the community organizations that we’re bringing in to do this work is that you can get 95% of the people housed. People will go. It takes a while. You have to do outreach. And what the community programs do is that they work with people who were formerly unhoused. 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. So we’re going to launch a program on Tuesday called Inside Safe, which is going to address the people that are in the tents. Now, it’s not going to address everybody, but it is going to address, hopefully, a significant number. But we’re going to put them in motels and hotels immediately. It’s interesting: it’s lessons that were learned from the pandemic. Some community organizations have been trying to get the city to master lease out entire hotels and motels for years.
CHUCK TODD: Are you still going to allow LAPD and sanitation officers to do these sweeps of encampments?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: No, these are not sweeps at all. This is getting people to move on their own, but then after the person leaves sanitation is absolutely going to have to be there. No question about it. But this is not coercing people. This is not ticketing people or incarcerating people. This is moving people from tents to hotels or motels.
CHUCK TODD: We know some of this is a — that you’ve run across quite a bit of mental health challenges here with the homeless population. Mayor Adams, in New York City, is talking about, you know, temporary institutions to help those with mental health problems. You know, do you think we need to bring some institutions like that into play to help you in Los Angeles?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Well, let me just say that one of our challenges in LA is the division between the city and the county. The county provides the services. We’re doing this process jointly, so we know that the people on the streets — again, there’s not enough services, but there will be some. But in the state of California the legislature passed something too that says if somebody is profoundly mentally ill, you know, they can be hospitalized.
CHUCK TODD: I’m curious, you talk about the issues you have with developers. The biggest issue the city sometimes has when it comes to tackling these housing issues are these homeowners associations. They’re extraordinarily litigious and extraordinarily powerful. Does your emergency declaration give you any more authority in dealing with these powerful institutions or not?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Well, it does give me more authority to do that. But I do think that there’s a way to get neighborhoods to cooperate. You know, this problem is so severe in our city. I mean, literally five people a day die on our streets. It’s so severe that I think that some of the resistance that we’ve experienced in the past, I’m hoping will be softened. So there’s some neighborhoods that want buildings to be built in certain areas, but it is still within their general neighborhood. You cannot address 40,000 people without building housing everywhere. You can’t just build all of the housing in the low-income areas that are already severely overcrowded.
CHUCK TODD: All right. Before I let you go, give me a metric by which you should be judged in four years on the homeless situation. Is it the number of people on the streets? Number of tent encampments? What’s a fair way to judge your success or failure?
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Well, 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.
CHUCK TODD: Mayor Karen Bass, appreciate you getting up super early out on the West Coast to share your perspective with us. Good luck. Congratulations. And we’ll be following your progress.
MAYOR KAREN BASS: Thank you.