Homeless woman on skid row

A homeless woman prepares to sleep on Los Angeles' skid row. (Los Angeles Times / August 8, 2014)

Citing an opening to get longtime homeless people off the streets, L.a. City Councilman Jose Huizar on Friday asked staff to draw up proposals for a full-time coordinator or "czar" to oversee homeless programs in the city.

In a motion filed Friday, Huizar said he saw an opportunity to better manage placement of homeless individuals into housing programs the city has funded to the tune of millions of dollars.

He also said a czar could better coordinate city efforts with the county of Los Angeles, which is responsible for the bulk of homeless social services, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city-county agency that funnels federal dollars to local programs.

The czar could build off the city's $3.7-million Operation Healthy Streets, which pairs enhanced city cleanups of homeless encampments, including skid row, with county outreach to people in the streets needing social, medical and mental health services, Huizar said.

"While improved coordination with the county around Operation Healthy Streets is a very positive first step, it underscores how much more potential there is to truly address, prevent and end chronic homelessness in the city," Huizar's motion said. 

San Francisco has had a homeless czar since 2002, a position most recently held by former Supervisor Bevan Duffy. Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the state's lieutenant governor, announced in 2004 a 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness.

The deadline came and went this year, with homelessness up 3% since 2005.

Huizar's motion asks the city's chief administration officer and chief legislative analyst to research and report recommendations for the coordinator to the council.

The motion was seconded by Mike Bonin, whose coastal district includes Venice, which -- along with skid row and Hollywood -- has the city's densest concentrations of homeless encampments.

The city's "approach to homelessness has failed," Huizar said late Friday afternoon. "It's sporadic at best and the result has been a tremendous amount of litigation. The matter has gotten so grave it's time for the city to step up to the plate and have control."

Mayor Eric Garcetti's staff did not immediately respond to emails asking his position on the motion.

Follow Gale Holland's homelessness news on Twitter: @geholland