Los Angeles spent $1.73m on anti-homeless signs

Los Angeles has been putting a ton of resources into fixing the city's homeless crisis. That means they're fixing it with housing and counselors and food and things like that, right? Unfortunately, no. The city's definition of "fixing" is loose, it has more to do with criminalizing homelessness, banning people from sleeping on benches or fining them for taking naps in their cars than improving the lives of the unhoused. "Fixing" makes it difficult for people to keep clean, using city funds to remove handwashing stations, showers, even toilets. Or arbitrarily moving people around to wherever is more convenient for public appearance, with punitive results.

And now, in a particularly offensive use of city funds that were ostensibly earmaked to aid in the city's homelessness epidemic, Los Angeles has thrown an absurd amount of money at a sign making company: it commissioned 1,906 signs from Ilium at a cost of $444 per sign.

Fabrication, installation, and maintenance make up the bulk of costs, according to a 2021 contract between Ilium and the city. But at the time, Ilium also anticipated spending tens of thousands of dollars on assessing locations, security as well as "camera ready art" and maps. 

Lexis-Olivier Ray, LA Taco

What exactly does "camera ready art" mean? Meanwhile, L.A. City General Services Division, 3,200 signs were made at $279 a piece. So in total, LA spent $1.73 million on signs that basically read "move on" with an asterisk and have a palatable, city-approved graphic design look to them. It's this author's opinion that one, that is too much money for signs, and two, that that is a sorry waste of a whole lot of money that could have gone toward any helpful resource. Like housing, for one, rather than a "no camping" sign.

The signs are part of the expansion of LAMC 41.18, the city's controversial "anti-camping" law that bans homeless people from sitting, lying, or sleeping near schools and daycares.

[…]"It's not surprising that the city, in prioritizing criminalization and banishment, spent millions on signs instead of actually trying to address the crisis of homelessness," Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) organizer, Adam Smith, said in response to our findings. "These 41.18 zones, like LAMC 41.18 generally, are a complete failure."

Lexis-Olivier Ray, LA Taco

"These actions do not result in people becoming housed," Horvath asserted. "Therefore, it is my opinion that 41.18 has been a waste of resources. We must prioritize our resources to the solutions we know to be most effective."

[…]"These sweeps just shuffle people from block to block and disconnect them from their services and case managers."

Lexis-Olivier Ray, LA Taco

How did Ilium justify their costs to the city? And how did the city justify paying for it? The signs are in English and Spanish. I wonder if they charged a translation fee for each sign? There's also at least four colors on all these signs, maybe there's an upcharge per color. Or perhaps they charged per character? Thankfully, the city capped their budget at $3 million, so at least someone has some reason somewhere in there!

Previously: New Orleans reduced homelessness by 90% (and saved a fortune) by giving homeless people homes