Federal judge cites coronavirus threat to homeless

In the public interest.


Federal judge orders emergency hearing over coronavirus threat to L.A.’s homeless people

Doug Smith

LA Times
L.A. County Sheriff Deputy Michael Tadrous talks with Shawn Troncozo, 24, about how to prevent becoming infected with the novel coronavirus during an outreach effort in El Monte last week. <span class="copyright">(Gina Ferazzi/Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)</span>

The federal judge who forced the opening of new homeless shelters in a landmark Orange County case has called for an emergency hearing in Los Angeles this week, citing the risk of people living on the streets during the coronavirus outbreak.

The hearing, set for Thursday, is on a case filed last week alleging that the city and county of L.A. have failed in their duty to protect public health and safety and to provide shelter to people living on the streets.

Citing the havoc that COVID-19, the disease caused by the rapidly spreading virus, could cause in homeless encampments, District Judge David O. Carter called for the emergency status conference.

Carter requested that a host of city and county officials attend, including Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority interim executive director Heidi Marston.


The Los Angeles case was filed on behalf of a group named the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights which, according to its website, was formed last summer by downtown residents and property owners to press for solutions to what they say are unsafe and inhumane conditions in spreading homeless encampments.

Led by longtime Central City East Association general counsel Don Steier, the group recruited members from around L.A. including nonprofits and service providers according to its website, and raised funds for legal fees and research into the issue. The group says it supports a legally enforceable right to shelter and provision of services for every person on the streets.

Concluding that ideological battles and legal challenges have been responsible for preventing progress, the L.A. Alliance sued on March 10.

That was just as cases of the novel coronavirus were beginning to spread in California. As of Tuesday, there were nearly 150 cases confirmed in L.A. County and many more in the Bay Area.