Lawsuit accuses L.A. County of denying welfare aid to mentally ill homeless people

A federal lawsuit filed by civil legal aid attorneys Wednesday accuses Los Angeles County of illegally denying mentally ill homeless people access to general relief.

News Story (California)

Hailey Branson-Potts
Los Angeles Times (LA Times)
November 18, 2015

Tags: Housing: Homelessness, Mental Health

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP) (CA)


Lawyers from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Disability Rights Legal Center and other groups contend that thousands of mentally ill homeless people are denied general relief because of a complicated application process or are dropped from the program because of bureaucratic barriers.

The 27-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, said the requirement by the county’s Department of Public Social Services that people must sign up in person at county welfare offices — and have no options for online applications — places a heavy burden on applicants.

People with mental disabilities often become discouraged from applying for general relief because they cannot handle long wait times in noisy, chaotic county welfare offices, the suit says. Those with schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses can be intimidated by security guards inadequately trained in how to interact with mentally disabled people, and many cannot read or understand complicated application packets, the suit says.