Faced with the prospect of a trial that neither side wants, Los Angeles County and plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking more homeless services have proposed a settlement that appears to meet the demands of a federal judge who has twice rejected previous agreements.
In the new proposal, filed in federal court on Monday, the county pledged to provide an additional 3,000 beds for mental health and substance use treatment by the end of 2026. The initial attempt to settle in October provided for only 300 additional beds.
Under pressure from U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, the county raised the offer to 1,000 new beds in an addendum submitted in April, but Carter again declined, saying the agreement not enough to solve the homelessness crisis.
In previous hearings, Carter repeatedly cited a report by former Department of Mental Health head Jonathan Sherin that the county would need 3,000 more beds to meet demand.
At Carter’s insistence, the new agreement nominated a retired judge as a monitor to ensure compliance, a condition the county had previously opposed.
Carter has set a hearing scheduled for Thursday to consider the proposal, which could end a 3-year-old lawsuit in which the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a group of mostly business owners and downtown resident, sued the city and county alleging they failed to alleviate the unsafe and inhumane conditions of the homeless encampments.
The city reached a settlement in 2022 that provided it would open enough beds over the next five years to accommodate 60% of the city’s homeless population in each City Council district base. on the results of the 2020 homeless count. City officials estimate they need to create 14,000 new interim and permanent beds, more than 13,000 of which are already planned.
In its initial settlement offer, the county agreed to provide support services for city-funded interim and permanent housing under the settlement. The county also agreed to increase mental health outreach by adding 11 new multidisciplinary teams, which include physical and mental health practitioners, bringing the total to 34 and nearly doubling Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Teams, focusing on severe mental illness, to 10 .
After Carter rejected that proposal, the county returned in April with a commitment to create 1,000 new mental health and substance use disorder beds and also to fund 450 new subsidies for board and care homes that “often used by individuals with severe mental illness who are at risk of homelessness.”
It estimates the value of those resources at $850 million.
Carter again refused, and set a November date for the case to go to trial. The county then filed a petition with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a writ ordering him to accept the deal and dismiss the case. The appeals court denied the petition.
When the county and federal attorneys asked for more time to conduct discovery, Carter remained silent and urged them to prepare for trial or make a settlement that he would accept.
During the hearing on September 18, they indicated that they are close to an agreement. Carter gave them until Monday to finish it.
The new agreement sets a schedule with 600 new beds this year, followed by a total of 1,200 by the end of 2024, 1,800 by the end of 2025 and 3,000 by the end of 2026.
“Both sides worked very hard to put together this agreement and I hope Judge Carter sees that and gives us his blessing,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement. “I want to put this case behind us so we can all focus on the real work of getting help to people who need it.”