Los Angeles will not be required to provide shelter or housing to homeless people living on the city’s Skid Row, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, effectively vacating another court’s order to do so by next month.
The ruling comes from the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in response to an order by the US District Court for the Central District of California that had directed Los Angeles city and county officials to provide shelter to Skid Row’s general population by October 18.
The three-judge appeals court panel determined that the April ruling by Judge David Carter “abused its discretion” and “did not have the authority to issue an injunction based on claims not pled in the complaint.” And because the plaintiffs “did not bring most of the claims upon which relief was granted, they failed to put forth evidence to establish standing,” the appeals court concluded.
“To fill the gap, the district court impermissibly resorted to independent research and extra-record evidence,” the appeals court said in its decision. “To the extent the district court premised the injunctive relief on improperly noticed facts necessary to confer standing, the district court abused its discretion.”
Carter’s ruling was in response to a federal lawsuit filed last year by several citizens, business owners, and community leaders who argue officials have failed to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, as tents line full city blocks and makeshift shelters cramp under street overpasses.
The decision was an urgent move to “restructure and reform” the housing needs in Los Angeles, according to the brief Carter wrote. At the time, he criticized various California officials for not “making enough effort to fund effective solutions in a timely manner.”
“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Carter wrote in a 110-page brief.
While funding has increased to various housing programs and initiatives, LA’s homeless population is steadily increasing as well, according to data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). In 2020, more than 66,000 people in the Greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness. In the past year, there was a 12.7% increase in the rate of people experiencing homelessness countywide, LAHSA data shows.
“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis –that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” Carter said in his order.
In response to the appeals court’s decision, Los Angeles Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas said: “You don’t solve homelessness in a courtroom. You solve it on the streets. … We can and should make housing is a right, not a privilege.”
Ridley-Thomas is Los Angeles’ City Council chairman of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.
CNN’s Madeline Holcombe and Alexandra Meeks contributed to this report.