LA County to Field 38 Homeless Outreach Teams

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October 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary 

C3 homeless outreach team in Downtown Skid Row. Photo: Curbed Los Angeles

Leslie Evans

Who runs them? What do they do? What’s new about this?

As the Los Angeles homeless crisis has deepened, county and city government, with county health agencies in the lead, have been investing in new and more comprehensive homeless outreach teams. City Council member Jose Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row, on September 8 announced that sufficient funding is now in place to boost the number of teams, now roughly 25, to 38 by the end of the year.

A number of homeless service agencies, most importantly the joint city-county Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), but many others as well, have run homeless outreach teams for years. The new effort, from the beginning of 2016, has expanded the capacity of such teams by adding more frequent return to the same homeless camps and backup from health and mental health agencies. This has been a pilot program, initiated by Housing for Health, a division of the County Department of Health Services, with funding from City Councilmember Jose Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row, and County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis.

The C3 Pilot Program

It is called the C3 program. The Cs stand for County, City, and Community. The pilot was originally limited to four full-time teams in Downtown’s Skid Row. The county’s health and mental health departments participate, along with LAHSA. Community participants include Americorps, the LAMP Community, and the United Way.

In October 2016, a fifth C3 team was added, in Venice. Venice C3, is a partnership between LA City, the County of Los Angeles, the Department of Health Services, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Behavioral Health Services, and St. Joseph Center. St. Joseph Center manages the team.

Traditional teams would have two or three outreach workers, go to a homeless camp and offer to transport the homeless to a shelter. The new model is more comprehensive. Here it is described by the St. Joseph Center:

“The C3 model is built on an intense three step process: Step One: An outreach team, working five days a week, begins to engage people living on the street. Step Two: As individuals living on the street get to know and build trust with the outreach team, they are assisted in connecting to various services and programs, including substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, detox, or bridge housing as appropriate. Step Three: individuals are supported to move into permanent housing and linked to ongoing supportive services and treatment.”

The four 5-person outreach teams walk Skid Row five days a week. The 54-block area is divided into defined segments, each team often managed by a different homeless agency and covering its own territory. The September 8 press conference announced that a fifth was is now being added, run by The People Concern, which will cover Downtown outside of Skid Row. The teams include or are backed by specialists in medical care, mental health, and housing.

The People Concern is a fusion of two existing organizations: OPCC (formerly the Ocean Park Community Center), in Santa Monica, and The Lamp Community, headquartered on San Pedro Street in Downtown’s Skid Row. OPCC is the largest social service organization on the West Side and has existed for fifty years. It runs a number of shelters. The Lamp Community (originally, Los Angeles Men’s Place), was founded in 1985. It runs a 25,000-square foot “village,” which offers life-skill workshops, recovery support, case management, advocacy services, and a residence with 99 beds.

The teams make repeat visits to the same camps. Their ultimate aim is to place the homeless in permanent housing, but on visits they offer food and hygiene products and spend time talking to the people there. The Skid Row C3 teams have offered services to 1,300 people since January 2016, and found housing for 286 people, as of September 20, 2017.

The E6 Program

With the passage of Measure H, the quarter-cent sales tax increase, in March, funding is now available to expand the C3 program countywide. The expanded effort has been named the E6 program. The in-group name is taken from one of the 46 county strategies to combat homelessness issued in January 2016. These were grouped into 6 categories, labeled A to F, with such topics as Provide Case Management and Increase Affordable/Homeless Housing. Category E is Create a Coordinated System. The sixth entry of seventeen under this heading is Countywide Outreach System.

Where there were only 6 teams in the C3 pilot program, there are now about 23 under E6 and rising. The only difference in the two programs, we were told by Libby Boyce, Director of Access and Engagement for Housing for Health, is the source of the funding.

The teams are fielded by many different organizations, and most of the teams involve personnel by still more groups, particularly medical and mental health specialists. The system is organized around the county’s 8 Service Planning Areas (SPAs). It is administered by the Los Angeles Coordinated Entry System (CES). This was pioneered in 2011 in Skid Row and expanded to all 8 SPAs last year. The CES has many access points for homeless individuals, but feeds into a centralized database that ranks all applicants and directs them to housing or other services in order by need. Each SPA has one or sometimes a few contracted CES lead agencies.

To connect the homeless to CES as seamlessly as possible, there are a large number of referral partners: county agencies, law enforcement, medical clinics, and the public libraries.

The CES lead agency or agencies in each SPA manages and dispatches the outreach teams. The agency also administers homeless outreach for its SPA. This includes coordinating its teams and those of any other organization that is not part of E6 so there is no duplication of areas covered.

Where Are the Teams?

As of late August, there were 23 outreach teams formed and functioning full-time.

SPA 1, which includes Lancaster and Palmdale, has one team, run by Mental Health America Los Angeles, Lancaster office.

SPA 2, which includes Burbank, Calabasas, and Santa Clarita, has 3 teams, two run by LA Family Housing and one by San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center.

SPA 3, which includes Pasadena, Alhambra, Pomona, and Diamond Bar, has one team, run by the Union Station Homeless Services of Pasadena.

SPA 4, which includes Skid Row, Downtown, and West Hollywood, the largest concentration of homeless in the county, now has 7 teams. Three are operated by The People Concern, with several subcontractors; one by Exodus Recovery, Inc.; two by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH); and one by Exodus Recovery, Inc. LAC + USC Team.

SPA 5, a very mixed area that includes Venice with its large homeless population but also West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Malibu. Three teams, two run by the St. Joseph Center and one by PATH.

SPA 6, South Los Angeles from the 10 Freeway down to and including Compton and Lynwood. Currently, four teams with one more planned, all run by the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS). This has the second largest concentration of homeless after SPA 4.

SPA 7, East LA, including Montebello, Whittier, Downey, and Norwalk. One team, managed by PATH.

SPA 8, South LA County, including Hawthorne, Torrance, Carson, and Long Beach. Three teams, two run by Mental Health America Los Angeles, Long Beach office, and one by PATH.

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