A focus on mental health, not more court orders, key to curbing homelessness

U.S. District Judge David Carter is frustrated with the homelessness crisis. As the judge overseeing a lawsuit over L.A.’s failure to provide housing for downtown homeless residents, he has held a number of high-profile hearings at which he has attempted to pressure local officials to take action.

Recently Carter visited the Skid Row area during a rainstorm and then issued a blistering order declaring that the conditions he saw were “appalling and dangerous.” On Thursday he held another hearing, this time in a tent in a Skid Row parking lot to reflect his concern that elected officials are “not seeing and feeling” the problem.

Carter warned that if city and county officials don’t come up with solutions, the federal courts may have to take action the way they did in the 1950s with the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ordered an end to racial segregation in schools.

That’s an outrageous comparison for many reasons, including this one: In Brown v. Board of Education, federal judges tried to solve a problem caused by the states; in the homelessness crisis, states are trying to solve a problem caused by federal judges.

Judge David Carter holds a hearing to address the homelessness crisis at the Downtown Women’s Center on skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 4, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)