Nury Martinez and Mark Ridley-Thomas: Fighting COVID-19 means fighting homelessness

By Council Members Nury Martinez and Mark Ridley-Thomas
La Opinión, March 15, 2021

Homelessness in Los Angeles is a crisis that has been allowed to grow for decades and has been made worse by COVID-19. If we do not act today, it will be increasingly serious.

In July 2019, prior to COVID-19, Governor Newsom appointed the new Regional Advisory Council on Homelessness, a coalition of elected officials and state nonprofit leaders. This advisory body charts a path to reduce homelessness, improve access to mental health services and shelters, and lower costs, while increasing housing options.

In January 2020, the Council proposed three recommendations to reverse this cycle in California: create an enforceable accountability mandate; adopt a unified strategy across the state; and create a point of authority in California.

A few weeks after proposing these goals, COVID-19 hit our communities. It became impossible for state leaders to prioritize homelessness while working against the pandemic.

A year later, the virus continues to ravage, and state elected officials are working to chart a path for California as the 2021 legislative session is underway.

As we work together to rebuild Los Angeles, it is critical that we remember: Fighting COVID-19 means fighting homelessness. We must go ahead and make sure that every Angeleno has a home.

For this reason, the Los Angeles City Council approved to endorse bill AB71 by Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, which is being considered by the State Assembly. The coalition behind the bill includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sacramento Mayor Darryl Steinberg and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, along with advocates and state leaders.

This legislation is historic: it would establish a permanent source of funds to fight on multiple fronts, closing an important corporate tax loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying taxes on foreign income, restoring the corporate tax rate to what it was in 1980, and so we can increase the income needed to reverse the cycle.

These new funds could prevent 28,000 people from becoming homeless, find temporary housing for 25,000 people, create affordable housing for 43,000 people, and provide navigation, case management and job support to 50,000 people.

These are the goals needed to reverse the cycle. The people of Los Angeles, from the San Fernando Valley to South Los Angeles, the homeless and those on the edge, deserve no less.

Nury Martinez is president of the Los Angeles City Council and Mark Ridley-Thomas is chair of the Los Angeles City Council Poverty and Homelessness Committee.

It’s time to begin a transformational approach to ending homelessness.

Join us in tackling our biggest challenge today.

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