POLICY ENGAGEMENT

SUPPORT FOR LOS ANGELES'S UNHOUSED AMIDST THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles's unsheltered population needs our support more than ever. We must now turn to emergency measures to make sure the most vulnerable among us can practice social distancing and maintain sanitary conditions to protect themselves and Los Angeles at large. Join us in the call for an expansion of Project Roomkey, a suspension of the 60-gallon rule, and a moratorium on the job search requirement for General Relief and SNAP benefits in order to make sure our fellow community members are able to remain safe in this time of crisis.

In addition to supporting a more comprehensive approach to protecting those most vulnerable to the pandemic in Los Angeles, we ask that you consider donating to the Pandemic Relief Fund. The fund provides basic necessities to those most in need: individuals experiencing homelessness, those at risk of homelessness, students, and families.

PROJECT ROOM KEY EXPANSION

Although Los Angeles County states that the purpose of Project Roomkey is to “make sure no one is forgotten during this public health crisis” the program ignores a particularly vulnerable portion of the homeless community: middle-aged individuals experiencing homelessness. Per the current requirements of Project Roomkey, the age minimum for individuals to be housed in 65 years old. However, individuals in middle age, specifically 55-65 years old, are also highly vulnerable to COVID-19; more than 1 in 10 middle-aged patients hospitalized for COVID-19 do not survive. Specifically, the mortality rate for patients 55-65 is 13%. Considering these alarming numbers, Los Angeles county must lower the minimum age of Project Roomkey from 65 to 55 to protect middle-aged people experiencing homelessness and fulfill its goal to “preserve the health of all of our housed and unhoused neighbors.

SUSPEND ENFORCEMENT OF LAMC 56.11

Even with an expansion of Project Roomkey provisions, the reality of the situation is that many of the citizens that make up LA’s homeless population will, unfortunately, remain unhoused in the midst of these uncertain times. Knowing this, we must make sure that our fellow community members are able to carry with them, the supplies they need to keep themselves and their community safe. Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.11, however, limits the amount of property people living on the streets may store in public areas. 

This code specifically limits the amount of personal property homeless individuals may retain to the amount that could fit in a 60-gallon container, and further, allows for the removal of any unattended personal property. This measure was enacted with the goal of limiting the possessions of unhoused individuals to “a manageable amount of essential property for their personal use and well-being.” Under the conditions of a highly contagious pandemic, the category of property that is essential to preserve well-being is greatly expanded. Whether that may be hand sanitizer, mouth and nose covers, additional food stores in order to limit interactions in public spaces, as well as the personal belongings that make up their home in the absence of a physical structure. Additionally, we must understand that, as this population takes advantage of new resources available to them, they may need to travel more often from where they store their belongings during the day and we should not penalize them by seizing the items they need to stay healthy. For these reasons, we support a suspension of the enforcement of LAMC 56.11 for the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORATORIUM ON THE JOB SEARCH REQUIREMENTS FOR GENERAL RELIEF AND SNAP BENEFITS

Amidst the current public healthcare crisis, individuals seeking General Relief and SNAP/CalFresh benefits are still required by LA County to complete job-search requirements. Asking individuals to fulfill the job search requirement in the current climate is an impossible expectation and stands in the way of the county’s efforts to protect the general health of Los Angeles’s unhoused. During this crisis, people should be able to focus on maintaining their health and dealing with quarantine rather than job searching at a time when employment is at a standstill. Forcing individuals to fulfill this requirement also increases their likelihood of exposure and the chances of further community spread of COVID-19. A moratorium on the job search requirement would be one step towards erasing some of the barriers that separate individuals experiencing homelessness from the benefits they need to survive this crisis.

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