Garcetti unveils budget plan that tackles homelessness, adds police

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Thursday, April 21, 2016
Garcetti unveils budget plan that tackles homelessness, adds police
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A homeless encampment is shown along a street in Los Angeles in an undated photo.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled an ambitious plan to help get the homeless off the streets as he released his city budget proposal Wednesday.

The $8.76 billion budget overall plays it safe, with a total increase of about 2 percent from last year. Garcetti wants to add 525 police officers to keep the city at its goal of 10,000 officers. He also wants to hire 230 firefighters.

In addition to safety personnel, Garcetti said he wants $31 million to fix sidewalks that are in need of repair.

But the biggest priority he talked about was dealing with homelessness in the city.

"This commitment represents a housing-first strategy that we know works," he said. "A housing-first strategy that came from LA but that has never been scaled up enough to deal with the ongoing onslaught of new homeless individuals we see on our streets."

The mayor is allocating $138 million this year, but admits the city needs long-term funding to pay for it in the future. He said a fee on new construction would help as well as asking voters for more taxes.

Los Angeles County is also considering asking voters for a sales tax increase to pay for transportation projects.

Andy Bales from the Union Rescue Mission, a downtown homeless shelter, said unfortunately plans for housing could take years to complete. He argued that the city and county currently have empty buildings that could be immediately put to use providing shelter, rather than waiting for long-term projects.

"This emergency was declared in the fall and here we are nearly in May and we're still talking about what we're going to do next year," Bales said.