Homelessness relief advocates have seemingly emerged victorious after Los Angeles County voters on Tuesday, March 7, approved a quarter-cent sales tax hike that would raise more than $3.5 billion to fund housing and support programs for the city’s homeless population.
A narrow two-thirds majority voted in favor of Measure H this week, as L.A. County residents aligned themselves with city leaders’ push to enact a massive funding effort that would move thousands of homeless citizens into permanent housing and provide them with the necessary services to treat addiction, mental health issues and other challenges. If the favorable two-thirds majority holds up after all the late absentee and provisional ballots have been tallied, homeless service organizations will finally get the funding they need.
“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, whose office proposed the measure.
Revenue from the Measure H sales tax increase would add close to $355 million annually for homelessness relief services over the next 10 years, The Los Angeles Times reported. Those funds would also provide support for the city’s new housing, along with rental subsidies and services for thousands more units to be built across the country.
Additional support for new housing might not have happened, however, had city residents not voted against Measure S, a proposal that targeted big developers and sought to enact a two-year moratorium on new projects. Many of the projects that would have been affected were earmarked housing for the homeless, according to The Guardian. The measure was defeated by a 70-30 margin.
“We applaud the voters of Los Angeles for their overwhelming rejection of Measure S,” Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and Wendy Greuel, chair of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission, said in a joint statement. “They understood that the initiative would have dealt a tremendous blow to the effort to build affordable and low-income housing in the city.”
“As the voters of Los Angeles made very clear yesterday, the only long-term solution to homelessness is housing,” they continued.
Despite these recent wins, efforts to allocate funds for Los Angeles’ homelessness relief has been met with opposition from conservatives who claim the city is giving the homeless too much leeway to pitch tents and liberals who argue that the city isn’t moving fast enough to help get people off the streets.
Mounting pressure from both sides left Los Angeles’ leaders undeterred, as the city plans to break ground on 10 initial homeless housing projects over the next two years and is in the process of creating teams of housing experts, social workers and addiction specialists to first assess, then address the severity of the city’s homelessness problem, The Guardian reported.
So far, Measure S has received 67.4 percent of the votes counted, but some homeless service advocates say they won’t celebrate just yet, not until all the votes have come in.
“I am not ready to celebrate the passage of H yet,” Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of A Community of Friends, a nonprofit that manages housing projects for the chronically homeless, told The Los Angeles Times. “I am thrilled it reached its hurdle of two-thirds vote by the end of the evening but only by 4,000-plus votes.”
Conclusive results on the measure likely won’t be available until next week, according to the newspaper. The final vote must be certified by March 31.