LA Metro directors ordered a new, comprehensive action plan to address the more than 800 unhoused individuals who use trains and buses as mobile shelters and sleep in the corners of stations and depots, according to a motion approved on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Led by Los Angeles Mayor and board chair Karen Bass, the unanimous motion directs CEO Stephanie Wiggins to create a plan to solve homelessness on the vast Metro system by strengthening partnerships with county agencies, especially with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
Bass said one of the crucial parts of the plan is to gather more data on where the homeless are, what kinds of services can be offered by Metro and which agencies can help with the task. She has led the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to clear out encampments and bring people from the streets into temporary and permanent housing.
She wants LA Metro to do the same, but through coordination with cities, nonprofit agencies and county services.
“We are building a new system. Thousands have been housed but with nearly 70,000 in the county experiencing homelessness, we still have a long way to go,” Bass said.
She called the homeless crisis that is impacting Metro, and that was declared an emergency in both the city of L.A. and L.A. County, a matter of life and death. “We have had 50 deaths on Metro in the first six months. The majority were overdoses and many of those were unhoused,” Bass reported.
“The plan should include a data snapshot of homelessness on our system, and that includes being part of the point-in-time count from LAHSA,” Bass said.
Metro has never been included in the countywide annual count performed by mostly volunteers every year, usually in January or February.
Bass wants Metro to be more connected to emergency housing to move homeless off its vast system. The plan will emphasize hooking up with community-based organizations and sharing with LAHSA’s authority to find beds. “Interim housing has been one of the biggest problems,” Bass said. “We need some places where people can live while permanent housing is being built.”
Recently, LA Metro increased its homeless outreach teams from 16 to 24 and is partnering with six nonprofit organizations, said L.A. County Supervisor and board vice-chair Janice Hahn. But the agency needs an over-arching plan to address the complex problems that many say turn people away from riding Metro’s trains and buses.
“This is a great next step forward in addressing the challenge,” Hahn said.
The plan will include:
• Increasing services, especially during late night and early morning hours
• An emergency housing protocol set up with LAHSA
• Requiring a report on progress at least every quarter
L.A. County Supervisor and board member Kathryn Barger said Metro’s plan puts it in the middle of the crisis. “This will begin the process of coordination. It is a new day. Accountability starts now,” she said.
LA Metro is working on a plan with other county agencies to build a permanent homeless services center on the ground floor of its headquarters building directly adjacent to Union Station.
Labeled as a “homeless navigation hub,” it would be located in a vacant “welcome center” at 1 Gateway Plaza, the 26-floor office building used by Metro employees. The homeless center, which would not serve as a shelter or include beds or dwellings, would be located just off the curb from the Patsaouras Bus Plaza and steps away from the eastern entrance to Union Station in northeast Los Angeles.