Judge orders Los Angeles to find shelter for thousands of homeless amid pandemic

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, who was appointed by ex-President Bill Clinton, has ordered the city of Los Angeles to find “humane” shelter for thousands of homeless living near freeways.

Yahoo reports the city of Los Angeles and LA County must find shelter for thousands of homeless people who are living near freeways, a federal judge ordered Friday, saying their health is at risk from pollution, earthquakes and the coronavirus.

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter issued a preliminary injunction requiring relocation of an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people camping near freeway ramps and under overpasses and bridges. He gave officials one week — until May 22 — to come up with a plan for providing “humane” housing.

“Without adequate access to shelter, hygiene products, and sanitation facilities, individuals experiencing homelessness face a greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, and an outbreak in the homeless community would threaten the general public as well,” Carter wrote.

He said those living near freeways are exposed to pollution, including lead, that can shorten their life expectancy by decades. Carter also said the location means the homeless face a greater danger of being struck by a car or injured during an accident or earthquake.

Carter said alternatives to shelters could include “safe parking sites” to camp or hotel and motel rooms that the county is renting under Project Roomkey, a state program established during the pandemic to get thousands of homeless off the streets temporarily to avoid transmission of COVID-19.

The injunction was issued in a lawsuit filed by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, which accused officials in greater Los Angeles of failing to comprehensively address the homelessness crisis.

“It seems like this order was meant to galvanize action and really compel all parties to start thinking these challenges in a new and innovative way,” said Daniel Conway, policy adviser for the alliance. “The judge has, frankly, issued a challenge: Let’s make this work and let’s start saving lives.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed hope for an agreement by the deadline.

“The judge has asked us to work with him to prioritize folks that are there, living under and over freeway overpasses, and we hope in the coming week that we can come to some common agreements with all the parties in the court case,” he said.