Society

Los Angeles Votes On A Tax To Curb Homelessness

| by Robert Fowler

Los Angeles residents voted on a ballot measure that would increase their county's sales tax to raise funding for organizations servicing the homeless to help curb an epidemic of people without housing.

The measure appears to have narrowly cleared the two-thirds threshold to pass, but supporters remain cautious, as late absentee and provisional ballots continue to be counted.

On Mar. 7, voters in Los Angeles decided on their mayor and two provisions with far-reaching implications for the county's homeless population, The Guardian reports. 

Voters re-elected Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, who won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Estimates indicate voters narrowly passed Measure H, a provision that would bump up their sales tax to fund services to combat homelessness.

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Measure H calls for a quarter-cent sales tax to generate $355 million annually for homeless services organizations over the next 10 years, amounting to a $3.5 billion influx over a decade.

The measure required 66.67 percent approving votes to pass, and currently has 67.44 percent of the vote.

"Thank you to all the voters," Garcetti said on KPCC on March 8. "I'm hopeful this will not only help us address homelessness, but truly end it."

"Voters across L.A. County have made the historic decision that Measure H is a smart investment and the right thing to do for our fellow human beings," said supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of A Community of Friends -- a nonprofit that manages housing projects for the homeless -- remains cautious, noting that late ballots are still being counted and that the fate of the provision may not be realized until March 31.

"I am not ready to celebrate the passage of H yet," said Gallo. "I am thrilled it reached its hurdle of two-thirds vote by the end of the evening, but only by 4,000-plus votes."

While early indications suggest Measure H will pass, Los Angeles voters decisively struck down Measure S, a provision that would have blocked housing projects for the homeless for at least two years,by a 70-30 margin, The Guardian reports.

Measure H pledged to provide 45,000 homeless people with housing within the next five years while also helping prevent 30,000 from losing their homes. A panel of 50 appointees from Los Angeles county and homeless nonprofits will determine how the funding will be allocated.

The panel's first meeting is scheduled for March 23, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Supervisor Janice Hahn of Los Angeles believes voters who approved Measure H want "to see more shelters open."

"They're going to want to see more people finding places to live, they're going to want to see more people being treated for addiction," Hahn added.

Former homelessness czar Philip Mangano, who worked under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, asserts that housing the homeless must be the first priority, according to The Guardian.

"How Los Angeles invests its money will be the critical element..." Mangano said. "If the money is not invested primarily in housing, it will have less of an impact. If you dissipate resources across the entire breadth of the problem, you'll just be reinforcing the status quo. It sounds obvious, but the priority has to be housing first."

Sources: The Guardian, Los Angeles TimesKPCC / Photo Credit: Jorge Gonzalez/Flickr

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