Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative Holds Conference, Issues One-Year Progress Report

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March 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary 

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Leslie Evans

In February 2016 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted a 47-point strategy to combat homelessness under the title the Homeless Initiative. One year later, on February 8, 2017, they sponsored the First Annual Homeless Initiative Conference. Little reported (no article in the LA Times), almost 500 civic leaders gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for an all-day session.

Opening speakers included County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn and the mayors of Inglewood and Whittier. Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke later in the program. There was an extensive review of the year’s progress, chaired by Phil Ansell, Director of the Homeless Initiative. Presenters were from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the County Housing Authority and Department of Mental Health, and the Sheriff’s Department.

 

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Mark Ridley-Thomas pointed out that some 30% of the homeless suffer from mental illness and called for “More psychiatric urgent care centers, recuperative care centers, sobering centers, more mental health, more in the way of drug treatment, more rapid rehousing, more transitional housing, more permanent supportive housing.”

There were 10 breakout sessions. Discussants in the first, on Connection and Collaboration, were Peter Lynn, LAHSA’s Executive Director, and Veronica Lewis, Division Director of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) and a founding leader of the Service Planning Area 6 (South LA) Homeless Coalition.

Sessions that looked at housing the homeless discussed a number of major problems: finding landlords willing to accept Section 8 vouchers; how to locate housing for homeless just coming out of prison or those living on the streets who have been criminalized for low-level issues such as unpaid tickets for vehicles they live in; and difficulties in finding locations to build or rehab properties for homeless housing due to restrictive land use regulations,*NIMBYism, and bureaucracy.

The county government took the occasion of the conference to issue its one-year progress report on the 47 strategies. The three-page document sorted progress into 5 categories ranging from fully implemented through partially implemented to tasks scheduled to be completed by April or July 2017. Most of this was not quantified so was difficult to evaluate, such as “Provide Subsidized Housing to Homeless Disabled Individuals Pursuing SSI,” and “Expand Jail In Reach.” The section that did offer numbers was positive, but very small compared to the needs of the 47,000 homeless in the county. Here are the highlights:

 

  • Funding for Homeless Prevention: 160 families retained their housing. 341 families getting current assistance.
  • Subsidized housing for the disabled under SSI: 61 individuals housed.
  • Partner with cities for Rapid Re-Housing: 242 households housed; 697 others enrolled but not yet housed.
  • Got landlords to accept vouchers for 128 vacant units.
  • 18 agreements to fund 168 new interim and bridge housing beds for people exiting institutions in LA County. Have placed 122 individuals in interim housing since October 2016.
  • Have hired 3 social workers and three custody assistants to provide jail in reach services.
  • Have issued contracts to hire 12 Coordinated Entry System outreach coordinators and 36 new outreach staff countywide.
  • Expanded hours for 1,595 existing emergency shelter beds to 24/7.
  • As one of three cities chosen to compete to house 100 Transitional Age Youths (TAY) in 100 days the county succeeded in housing 257, 77% in permanent housing.
  • The county’s Homeless Incentive Program and Veterans Incentive Program provide federal rent vouchers, a holding fee of up to one month’s rent, a damage fund, and move-in funds that cover the security deposit, utility assistance, and furniture. As of December 2016, the HIP had housed close to 100 homeless families and the VIP 268 homeless veterans.
  • A small number of chronically ill homeless persons run up huge medical bills each year, as much as $50,000 to $70,000. The county has now identified the 5% most expensive homeless, a total of 5,543 individuals. Special efforts will be made to find them housing but the report offers no numbers.

 

To sum up:

Prevented from going homeless: 160 families.

Found permanent housing: 100 families, 527 individuals (198 TAY), plus 128 units (could be either families or individuals).

Found temporary housing: 242 families, 181 individuals (59 TAY).

 

We do not know the number of people in the families housed, but to get a ballpark estimate of the total, we can use the national average family size, 3.13 persons, and for the 128 units, the national average of families among the homeless of 41%. This would give us:  500 prevented from going homeless; 1,053 provided permanent housing; and 938 given temporary housing. Total in some kind of housing just under 2,500 for the year.

 

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