With an estimated 26,000 people calling Los Angeles sidewalks, cars and storm drains home, city officials on Tuesday approved an expanded campaign to help the homeless this winter by opening public buildings as temporary shelters and allowing people to sleep inside vehicles in designated lots.
The move comes as Los Angeles’ homeless population has multiplied across the region and Southern California is expected to be hit by severe rainstorms and possible flooding from El Niño, which could put unsheltered residents at increased risk.
The City Council also approved what members said were changes to soften a controversial law allowing authorities to seize individuals’ property stored on sidewalks and in alleys, though opponents said the new language continues to criminalize homelessness.
It also moved to create a special fund to tackle the problem, examine ways to expand voluntary storage facilities and push for creation of a homelessness czar.
But the council did not declare a state of emergency, as members had pledged to in September, and it acknowledged that it could be weeks or months before people living in the streets see the benefits of Tuesday’s actions. […]