After last summer’s racial reckoning, re-envisioning public safety has become a paramount priority for community members and city leaders in South Los Angeles.

The “Reimagining LA: What’s Next” community meeting was hosted by the Empowerment Congress via Zoom March 17. The Empowerment Congress, which was founded by Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in 1992, is now made up primarily of concerned community members and Neighborhood Council leaders.

In addition to public safety, community members also learned more about new investments being made to address and prevent homelessness across South LA.

Nearly $150 million dollars were allocated from the Los Angeles Police Department budget, of which $88 million were set aside to be reinvested in disadvantaged communities of color, said Ridley-Thomas, who represents LA’s 10th District.

Ridley-Thomas’ district is expected to receive $4.5 million of the reinvestment funds.

“Unarmed response to homelessness and a non-violent calls trust fund,” will be an important part of re-envisioning public safety in South LA said Ridley-Thomas. “I said when I ran for this seat that homelessness would be my priority.”

Community members were eager to learn more about unarmed responses to homelessness.

“We need them for assistance, we don’t need them to pull the guns out,” said Dora Leong Gallo, president & CEO of A Community of Friends, a local nonprofit affordable housing developer whose mission is to end homelessness.

In addition to public safety and homelessness, funding will go towards fighting poverty in communities of color.

“What’s the next step in regards to these resources,” asked Byron L. Smith Sr., co-chair of the Empowerment Congress Public Safety & Justice Committee.

“The ‘Right to Housing’ is not a new idea,” Ridley-Thomas said, adding that he believes homelessness and public safety are inextricably linked and intertwined. “This is our chance to show what the Empowerment Congress is all about.”

Ridley-Thomas said over the next several months, programming in the Crenshaw Corridor, Mid-City and Koreatown are top priorities in the fight against homelessness, which directly impacts public safety resources.

Empowerment Congress committees include areas like arts and culture, economic development, homelessness, COVID-19 and public safety.

“Public safety is critical… we’re onto something here and we have to rethink (how we approach policing),” Ridley-Thomas said.