Mayor Karen Bass highlights the removal of a homeless encampment outside Larchmont Charter School during a press conference on Dec. 6, 2023. (Mayor’s Office)

On her first day in office, as she promised during her campaign, she declared a state of emergency to respond to the homelessness crisis that has been plaguing Los Angeles and its residents for years.

365 days later, while the mayor has made a lot of progress in dealing with the homeless situation, she still feels she has a lot more to do. As she said in her inauguration speech in front of thousands of supporters, this battle is not hers to fight alone.   It was going to take everyone’s efforts to combat the homelessness that has run rampant along the streets and under the freeways and doorways all around Los Angeles.

She emphasized that belief again in a meeting with Black press from around the city and the state as she reflected on her first year in office.

“This is not a battle that I am fighting alone.  It requires a consortium of workers and resources,” the mayor said. “We have to work with the county, the state and the federal government to address this issue.”

Still, Mayor Bass is making progress. When she took office, there were over 45,000 unhoused people living on the streets of Los Angeles.  While the number is still significant, the mayor points out that Operation Inside Safe has helped almost 2,000 residents move off the streets and into some type of temporary housing.

Mayor Bass in San Pedro discussing her work in improving city services. At right are Councilmember Tim McOsker and StreetsLA General Manager Keith Mozee on Dec. 4, 2023. (Mayor’s Office)

And the community is noticing her success. According to Cynthia Mitchell-Herd, president/CEO of the L.A. Urban League, “The Los Angeles League is so very proud of our Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. Her exemplary work with the unhoused is a testament to her tenacity, dedication and commitment to getting the work done in Los Angeles. Job well done!”

The mayor is also working diligently to streamline the process for building affordable housing, but she insists (as she always has stated) that there is no such thing as a quick fix.  Housing of any type, and particularly affordable housing, takes time.  You cannot just build affordable housing overnight.

And while the mayor has worked diligently to streamline the process in the city and coordinate efforts between city departments, the state, federal and private equity resources that are needed to build affordable housing are still a challenge to developers here in Los Angeles and throughout the state.

“Buildings don’t just pop up in a few weeks or a few months for that matter. Building quality housing of any type takes time and we cannot just throw housing together. It has to meet quality and safety standards in order to be financed and built,” explained Mayor Bass.

Bass’s Inside Safe program is only one part of her battle to address the unhoused.  She has also pushed hard to get more affordable housing developed on publicly owned land, including land owned by Metro.

For Thanksgiving, Mayor Bass participated in feeding the homeless at the L.A. Mission. (Mayor’s Office)

The other aspect that has to be addressed concerning this crisis is the underlying issues that lead people to become homeless in the first place.  The mayor detailed how she has put together outreach teams to visit homeless encampments and offer mental health services and other resources to assist unhoused individuals to impacted by these issues.

In reflecting on her own first year in office, Mayor Bass acknowledged that while challenging, the job has also been rewarding.

“The most exciting thing is that I get to make a difference on the same day,” noted Bass. “When you’re in the legislature, especially Congress, you can work on legislation for years. And the idea that I can literally go to a tent and help somebody come in from a tent and be housed on the same day, it’s the instant gratification that has been very exciting,” she admitted.

Mayor Bass also had a lot to say in how her administration has been addressing public safety and matters plaguing LAPD.  She said that she has worked with LAPD to streamline the hiring process, not only in LAPD, but throughout the City of Los Angeles.

“Hiring officers is important to me and to our city.   We have to work on how and who we recruit into LAPD,” insisted the mayor, who added that she wants to see more Black and Brown officers “who are from Los Angeles and who grew up in Los Angeles” patrol the streets of Los Angeles.  She added, “Because so many officers have retired, we have to increase our hiring efforts to ensure that the police force does not shrink any further.”

She also gave a lot of credit for safer streets to the intervention workforce that the city employs.  She said, “These men and women work every day to ensure that our streets are safer and deal with gang members and those enticed by gang life [to let them know] that there are other opportunities in the city.”

Another positive note is that Bass has managed to get many of the intervention workers a significant raise in pay, which provides incentive for staff to continue to work with those on the streets to avoid the types of gang violence and gang retaliation that has been an issue in Los Angeles for years.

“You see signs of the mayor’s efforts to clean up the city throughout the city on an almost daily basis.  You can find sanitation workers, social workers and others closing off various areas of the city, cleaning up the streets and providing services to the unhoused from South Los Angeles to Silver Lake to the valley almost every day,” said Carrell Howard and lifelong resident of Los Angeles who works for a local non-profit.

Howard also credits the mayor with helping get the un-housed inside.  “It may not be perfect, but it is certainly moving in the right direction and a lot better than it was before,” she said.

Robert Sausedo, president and CEO, of the nonprofit Community Build, gave Bass high marks as well in her efforts to move people into permanent housing.

“Mayor Bass has more than exceeded the expectations of the residents of Los Angeles. She has tirelessly hit the ground running and created new pathways to end homelessness while expanding opportunities for all Los Angeleno’s,” declared Sausedo.

“My vote for her is one of the best investments I have personally made in the contribution to keep Los Angeles on the cutting edge.”