Our Homelessness Crisis Demands Urgency

Before dawn on January 17, 1994, the Northridge Earthquake struck Southern California. The magnitude 6.7 quake caused dozens of fatalities, collapsed buildings, and turned freeways into rubble. It was the costliest earthquake disaster in U.S. history.

Within hours of the quake, Mayor Richard Riordan officially declared a State of Emergency, followed by a similar gubernatorial declaration, and a national disaster declaration by President Clinton.

Initial estimates were that it would take a year to rebuild the Santa Monica Freeway, but elected officials at all levels worked with one another and the private sector to reopen the freeway in record time – just 66 days.

Our homelessness crisis demands the same urgency.

As City Attorney, I will advise the Mayor and City Council to declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness. It would spur better collaboration by local and county officials, whose partnership is critical to delivering shelter and services.

The emergency declaration would streamline approvals for cost-effective housing solutions, including adaptive reuse of offices and hotels, housing near transit centers, and prefabricated housing. Similarly, it would expedite access to services for those suffering from mental illness and addiction.

We cannot solve this crisis alone. We should demand help from the federal and state governments, and couple emergency measures with sustained investments in healthcare, education and jobs.

We came together and rebuilt our city after the Northridge Earthquake. With collaboration and urgency, we can rise to the occasion again and end the status quo of human suffering on our streets.