Advocating for Homeless Funding

A beggar in the streets of Madrid, holding a cup for donation from passers-by.As the Board of Supervisors gave final approval to Los Angeles County’s $28.7-billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas advocated for ongoing funding to address the crisis of homelessness.

“I am pleased to see that funding for many of the Board’s priorities is reflected in this budget recommendation,” he said, citing $100 million set aside for the County’s Homeless Initiative programs.

“These resources are merely one-time in nature, however, so I am hopeful that we will be successful in our efforts to identify a sustainable funding source,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “I am concerned that if we do not identify a funding mechanism to address this in an ongoing manner, the crisis will worsen and have negative impacts on our budget because of the significant costs in the areas of health, public safety, and other areas.”

Noting 115,000 people are homeless in California – accounting for 21 percent of the nation’s homeless population – Supervisor Ridley-Thomas urged the public to sign a petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has also been urging state Legislators in Sacramento to let county voters impose a special half-percent tax on personal income above $1 million a year to fund programs for the homeless. According to a recent poll, 76 percent of likely voters would support such a ballot initiative, which would raise $243 million a year. The amount is about half of what the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said was needed annually to address the crisis.

Los Angeles County’s own homeless population is estimated at 47,000. The Board set aside $100 million to pay for subsizied housing, rapid rehousing, transitional housing for those exiting prison and other institutions, as well as many other services recommended by the Homeless Initiative. The amount is on top of money already being spent by various County departments to help the homeless.

“This balanced budget, while providing essential funding for services across the County, aggressively supports the Board’s agenda for transformative change in four key areas –homelessness, child protection, Sheriff’s Department reforms and the integration of our County health agencies,” said County CEO Sachi Hamai. “There are always competing demands for County dollars, and I believe this budget honors not only the Board’s longstanding commitment to fiscal responsibility but also to lifting the quality of life for all our residents.”

Aside from seeking to address the crisis of homelessness, the budget also advances the County’s commitment to protect vulnerable children, ensure constitutional policing in the jails, strengthen wage enforcement, and combat human trafficking.