Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (L) speaks as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra looks on at a news conference following a tour and roundtable discussion at an Asian American Drug Abuse Program facility in Los Angeles on May 31, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles City Council Oct. 10 appointed Mayor Karen Bass to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission (LAHSA) for a three-year term, ending on June 30, 2026.
The council voted unanimously on the matter. In a letter to the council, Ms. Bass had asked councilors to confirm her appointment in an effort to “further confront the number one crisis facing our city.”
The city and county of Los Angeles have both declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness and are implementing strategies to bring unhoused Angelenos inside from encampments. Ms. Bass added, “Through my experience and commitment to address this emergency ... I am qualified to serve as a member of the commission.”
Prior to the vote, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez noted it’s “unprecedented that the mayor has ever appointed themselves into this role.” But she applauded Ms. Bass for stepping up and wanting to serve in one of the most “challenging roles.”
Ms. Rodriguez—who sits on the Council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, and is a vocal critic of LAHSA for what she says is a lack of transparency and accountability in regards to data and funding—asked about the mayor’s intentions.
“The mayor feels that given those direct supervisorial involvement on the LAHSA board, that it is imperative that she also participate,” said Mercedes Marquez, Ms. Bass’s chief of housing and homelessness solutions.
A homeless encampment in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Ms. Marquez noted that some of the concerns Ms. Rodriguez has with LAHSA can be pinpointed to a lack of communication between city and county officials.
“By participating, we’re hoping that there'll be greater clarity and a lot more transparency as we move forward,” Ms. Marquez said.
The county Board of Supervisors, the mayor, and the city council created LAHSA in 1993 as an independent, joint powers authority. LAHSA is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in the county.
It also coordinates and manages more than $800 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs that provide shelter, housing, and services.
The 10-member LAHSA Commission has the authority to make budgetary, funding, planning, and program policies. Members meet every fourth Friday of the month at 9 a.m. except in November and December.
Of the 10 members, five are appointed by the county and the other five are appointed by L.A. city leaders.
Currently, County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath chairs the commission. Ms. Horvath appointed herself and her colleagues approved it.
Homelessness in Venice Beach, Calif., on Jan. 27, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Ms. Rodriguez said that in a recent conversation with Ms. Horvath, it came up that Supervisor Kathryn Barger may also consider appointing herself to the commission.
Ms. Marquez said it’s essential to have both entities of government at the table. She added, “What we’re hoping for is ... fuller integration, so that we understand exactly what the county and what we need, and they understand what we have and what they need, and we begin to work together.”
She mentioned the LA Alliance Case against the county, which was settled in September. The settlement requires the county to provide an additional 3,000 beds for mental health and substance abuse treatment by the end of 2026—a previous settlement attempt provided for only 1,000 additional beds.
A separate case was settled in June between LA Alliance and the city of Los Angeles, requiring the city to provide 13,000 beds for unhoused individuals.
“Things like that are going to require an enormous level of collaboration, not just of LAHSA, that’s just one of the entities here, but the Board of Supervisors as it relates to dollars and anything else. This gives us the opportunity to work in an integrated manner,” Ms. Marquez said.