Coronavirus: Ahead of emergency hearing Gov. Newsom, Garcetti lay out plan to house homeless

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues, residents are urged to stay home. But what about the roughly 36,000 people in Los Angeles who are homeless?

Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out plans Wednesday to get the most vulnerable in the homeless population with pre-existing conditions off the streets and indoors.

The state is supplying local governments with $150 million, and with the help of the American Red Cross, the City of Los Angeles will open 6,000 beds at 42 recreation centers.

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"If we take these emergency shelter beds and add in our bridge shelter beds, this means we can bring 7,000 unhoused Angelenos off the streets and into emergency housing. The most in recent memory, maybe ever in the city's history," Garcetti said.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues, residents are urged to stay home. But what about the roughly 36,000 people in Los Angeles who are homeless?

"Chief Bratton, 10 years ago said what would it take to clean up Skid Row and he actually said a pandemic. It's unfortunate that that's what it's taken, but man am I glad to see so many people making so places for people to go," said Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission.

Bales praised all the resources that are coming together to protect the homeless population against COVID-19. About 300 handwashing stations and 120 mobile bathrooms have already been setup at encampments.

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"I'm hoping we don't return to putting people on the streets. That this all teaches us that we all live a better life housed than unhoused together when we immediately help people get off the streets and stay off the streets," Bales said.

In a phone call with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Gov. Newsom put in a formal request for California to obtain use of the NAVY's USNS Mercy, the largest hospital ship in the world.

"The acquisition of the Mercy here off the coast of the state of California, which would provide additional 1,000-bed capacity, provides support for pharmacists and other diagnostic equipment," Newsom said.

Meanwhile, Garcetti and County Supervisor Kathryn Barger are among the officials expected to attend an emergency hearing Thursday in a federal lawsuit challenging what an activist group contends is a lack of action to protect homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed last week in Los Angeles federal court by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless, and disabled city dwellers who contend the apparent lack of services and alleged negligence on the part of city and county officials has resulted in a multitude of dangers in the area.

In response to the suit, U.S. District Judge David Carter scheduled the emergency hearing and invited elected top elected officials to attend to discuss the issue.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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