The judge found that the settlement proposed by Los Angeles County will likely not provide adequate beds for the region’s homeless.
A federal judge has refused to approve Los Angeles County’s proposed settlement, intended to end a years-long lawsuit accusing local government entities of failing to address widespread homelessness.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Judge David O. Carter told attorneys for both the defendants and plaintiffs in the lawsuit that the proposed settlement falls short of providing an adequate number of beds in mental health facilities and rehabilitation centers.
Carter, adds the Times, did not specify what changes would be required, saying instead that he is not willing to approve the tentative agreement in its current form.
However, Judge Carter stated that he expects to speaks Los Angeles’s newly-elected mayor and the county’s Board of Supervisors to discuss the settlement.
“He said, ‘I want to look them in the eyeballs. I want the new board chair and I want the new mayor to come in here and talk to me,’” said attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, who is representing the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, the organization that filed the lawsuit against Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.
In its proposed settlement, writes The Los Angeles Times, the county promised to develop at least 300 additional substance abuse and mental health beds by the summer of 2024.
However, Mitchell said that several hundred beds would likely be inadequate, with researchers estimating that there are at least 4,000 to 5,000 homeless Angelenos with severe mental health issues.
“What he said essentially, which is what I have been saying, is, ‘This is a good effort.’ He wants to recognize the city and county coming together. They’ve put forward a lot and made a lot of concessions,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell told the Times that her client accepted the settlement because it represented some progress, even if the Alliance concurs with Carter’s assessment that the agreement is insufficient.
“We were not prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Mitchell said. “This was still a very good agreement.”
“What the judge was concerned about the agreement is honestly the lack of clinical beds, the lack of mental health treatment that’s available in the county of Los Angeles, and that he’s right, to question that,” Mitchell told NBC-4.
“That’s a big concern. And it’s not fully addressed in this agreement,” she added.
As LegalReader.com has reported before, the City of Los Angeles reached a separate settlement with the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights in April, promising to fund housing for 60% of the city’s unsheltered residents in each council district.
However, the city said that it could only take responsibility for people “who can reasonably be assisted by the city, meaning they do not have a serious mental illness, and are not chronically homeless [or] have a substance abuse disorder or chronic physical illness or disability requiring the need for professional medical care and support.”
Los Angeles County, stressed the city, is tasked with providing the region’s governmental health services, and should therefore be responsible for providing additional resources for the remaining unsheltered.