For years, homelessness has loomed over the civic culture of Los Angeles as its most intractable problem, one that defined the city and its government in the eyes of many people. Now change may be in the air, with the election of three new members to the City Council, relentless pressure from a federal judge and the potential for a new administration in Washington.
The council’s three newest members rode a wave of discontent over the government’s failure to help the 40,000 Angelenos who have no home amid a pandemic. For some voters, it came down to the city’s inability to keep streets clean and rights-of-way clear. For others, it was about the plight of the most vulnerable citizens — and how the city has essentially criminalized their existence.
Councilman-elect Mark Ridley-Thomas returns to the council after decades of helping to shape homeless policy at the local and state level, including helping pass Measure H, which raised a quarter-cent sales tax to generate about $355 million a year for homeless programs. Another incoming councilman, Kevin de León, comes from a stint as state Senate president pro tempore, helping to oversee state aid for the homeless.
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