LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new program designed to address homelessness in Los Angeles is underway, with teams moving those experiencing homelessness from tent encampments into hotels and motels.
Mayor Karen Bass on Wednesday signed an executive directive for the new program, called "Inside Safe."
The program, which Bass said will cost under $100 million, will use master leasing with motels to place the homeless. She said her office has been in touch with motel owners near encampments.
The mayor says "Inside Safe" gives people safe places to move inside with ongoing support - so they can stay inside and safe for good. The program also addresses the city's approach to street homelessness, looking at how teams engage with those individuals in order to improve outreach efforts.
Bass' administration is targeting locations that, in her words, are most chronic and where people are suffering the most.
"Declaring a state of emergency and then the executive directive that we did to expedite building - you know in the best of circumstances, that's still going to take months," Bass said. "Which is why we're doing this program, to get people off the streets to stop the suffering today. And what our plan is is for people to be in the temporary housing for a while and at the same time getting building done."
The program got underway Tuesday with a large encampment at Cahuenga Boulevard and Cerritos Place under the 101 Freeway in Hollywood. Officials told Eyewitness News about 25 people were living at that encampment and that 10 have already been housed through the program.
Eyewitness News was there as city crews begin taking apart the encampment and discarding the belongings left behind by those being moved to temporary housing
A homeless man named Joseph told Eyewitness News he was tired of having his belongings stolen and wants a steady job.
"They offered me a hotel room and I'm going to see how it works out, but I don't know about housing," he said.
On her first day as mayor of L.A., Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness. She vowed to get people housed and more housing built so that residents can see a real difference, which hasn't been visible despite billions spent on programs to curb homelessness, including $1.2 billion in the current city budget.
"If you build affordable housing under my executive directive, the city will complete the approval process within 60 days," Bass said. "Then, when construction starts, the permit utility and certificate of occupancy process will be completed in just five days. That's five days for 100% affordable housing projects and in no more than two days for temporary housing. That is the urgency we need at City Hall and that is what we are delivering."
On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors endorsed the state of emergency, and representatives from the county will now be part of the city's response, including the county departments of public health and mental health.
Bass has said she intends to get over 17,000 homeless people into housing in her first year through a mix of interim and permanent facilities. An estimated 40,000 people are homeless in L.A., a city of nearly 4 million.
Bass said outreach workers will try to coax people indoors. People are homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental illness, addiction and job loss.
Gov. Gavin Newsom first launched the idea of placing homeless people in motel and hotel rooms at the start of the pandemic in 2020. He has since encouraged cities and counties to convert motels and other buildings into housing for homeless people.
Advocates for the homeless have welcomed the use of motel rooms, where people can have their own bathroom far away from the clutter of congregated shelters. But they have criticized what they call "sweeps" of encampments that force people to move and separate them from their belongings in the absence of a firm motel room offer.
Meanwhile, the new mayor of Long Beach is also pledging to work on the region's homeless crisis. In his first act as mayor, Rex Richardson is expected to introduce a declaration of emergency for the city.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.