HUD Secretary Vows Help for the Homeless

Radio 1 (1 of 1)-3U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and members of the Los Angeles City Council in a roundtable discussion on homelessness hosted by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Secretary Castro said the federal government aims to ease the crisis of homelessness that is gripping not only the city but the entire county of Los Angeles.

“As Los Angeles goes, so goes the nation, and we want to be your strong partner in driving down the number of homeless,” Secretary Castro said during the event at the Vermont Villas, a permanent supportive housing complex in Harbor Gateway for chronically homeless veterans and homeless individuals with critical health needs.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said Los Angeles County has made addressing homelessness one of its top priorities, invested $100 million to implement the most comprehensive plan yet for attacking the problem, and continues to seek funding.

Radio 1 (1 of 1)-2“We welcome the federal government as a partner in the fight against homelessness, especially in LA County where on any given night, 47,000 men, women and children lack decent housing and services,” he said. “United, we can and must take action to provide decent housing and restore dignity to those forced to live in such unsafe and deplorable conditions, no matter how daunting the task.”

The public is also clamoring for solutions. An online petition asking the Governor of California to declare a homelessness emergency has drawn almost 25,000 signatures.

Councilmenbers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Joe Buscaino and Gil Cedillo also attended roundtable discussion, together with leaders of nonprofit agencies serving the homeless, such as PATH, Step Up on Second, LAMP Community, St. Joseph Center, Home for Good, and others.

Comprehensive and collaborative efforts to help the homeless have proven successful. Earlier this week, HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) announced the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has been cut nearly in half since 2010.  The data revealed a 17 percent decrease in veteran homelessness between January 2015 and January 2016—quadruple the previous year’s annual decline— and a 47 percent decrease since 2010.


Giving Community Nonprofits A Boost

IMG_1402 (1)It was graduation day for leaders of several local nonprofit organizations, following a seven-month program aimed at bolstering their ability to serve at-risk youth, the homeless, youth adults transitioning out of foster care, rehabilitated former inmates seeking to reenter society, and many other members of the community.

The Second District Capacity Building and Leadership Development Program was the result of a partnership among Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the California Community Foundation, the Empowerment Congress and Community Partners. It featured workshops and one-on-one coaching to help expand the reach and deepen the impact of nonprofit organizations.

IMG_1398“Nonprofits have to be prepared to transition – there’s nothing to celebrate about doing things the way they always have been done,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told participants at the culmination of the program. “Innovation coupled with accountability is fundamentally key to success of our human services infrastructure.”

Founders, executive directors and other leaders of nonprofit organizations expressed appreciation after going through the program. “It has given us a framework to examine, to measure, to reflect and see areas where we can improve and collaborate,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the Good Seed Development Corp., which seeks to prevent transition-age young adults from experiencing or remaining homeless.

IMG_1396David Schwed, development director of The Francisco Homes, which helps men reintegrate back into the community after decades behind bars, said the program provided vital information that could help his nonprofit, which “started with a few nuns going to visit men in prison” to currently housing 65 men in six locations.

“It’s a ministry, not a business – but we need to be sustainable as a business, and we need to build our capacity,” he added. “The program is helping us build all of the parts that an organization needs to be sustainable.”

Nancy Harris, executive director of Holman Community Development Corp., which helps with youth employment, and job readiness training, housing and education, said, “Our nonprofit is at an interesting stage where we need to take it to the next level. This process that we went through at the Supervisor’s lead has really helped me clearly see what our next level is.”

Housing for Health

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A C3 team conducts outreach in Skid Row. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daniels.

After less than six months on the frontlines of the fight against homelessness, two new initiatives by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) have taken hundreds of people off the streets and into housing. And both are just getting started.

Launched by DHS’ Housing for Health Division in March, C3 – which stands for County + City + Community – deploys teams to Skid Row to offer a variety of services. To date, they have placed 311 people into interim facilities such as shelters, detox facilities, stabilization housing and recuperative care. They have assigned 255 people to permanent supportive housing, 28 of whom have already moved into their own apartments.

Meanwhile, DHS’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center (MLK RCC) in Willowbrook has admitted 49 homeless patients since opening in February. So far, 43 of those patients have been assigned to permanent supportive housing, and eight have been given keys to their new apartment.

“Housing for Health is among the County’s most successful programs for helping the homeless and we need more like it,” said Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas, whose office helped fund C3 together with Supervisor Hilda Solis and Councilman Jose Huizar, and whose district encompasses the MLK RCC. “Its humane and innovative approach not only saves lives but also saves taxpayer money, because giving the homeless a chance to achieve stability, as well as a sound mind and body, means fewer stints in public hospitals and jails, among other savings.”

Housing for Health Director Marc Trotz added, “It is so important that governmental agencies coalesce and move from talk to action and end the health and humanitarian crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles. We know what works and we just have to get down to business and get it done.”

Since its establishment in 2012, Housing for Health has placed almost 1,800 people into permanent supportive housing. In traditional systems, the homeless tend not to be provided housing until they first attain stability and overcome obstacles such as substance addiction. Housing for Health has a different approach that recognizes living in a cardboard box would make sobering up extremely difficult. It starts off with providing decent, safe and affordable housing that includes a range of supportive services.

C3: County + City + Community

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A C3 team member gets a grateful hug from one of the homeless on Skid Row. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daniels.

One of Housing for Health’s most recent initiatives, C3 is a collaboration among the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), United Way of Greater Los Angeles, LAMP Community and AmeriCorps. The teams consist of a nurse, mental health specialist, substance abuse counselor, a LAHSA Emergency Response Team member, and two formerly homeless members of AmeriCorps. Each team is responsible for a quadrant of Skid Row, reaching out five days a week to people living on the streets with deteriorating health, untreated mental illnesses, substance addictions, trauma and despair.

To date, C3 has engaged more than 1,000 people across Skid Row, including Melinda, who was homeless for 30 years, struggling with multiple mental health disorders, Hepatitis C and addictions to meth and alcohol. One of the teams got her temporary shelter at the Union Rescue Mission while they prepared her for the move to permanent supportive housing. In May, Melinda was able to move into permanent supportive housing in downtown LA.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center

Another refuge is located at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. At MLK RCC, homeless patients can recover from illness or injury after being discharged from a hospital operated by DHS, such as LAC+USC and Harbor-UCLA Medical Centers. They are provided with all the basic necessities, including interim housing, meals, transportation and various health services over four to six weeks, on average. They are also connected to life skills classes, mental health counseling, substance abuse and other services that would help them transition into permanent supportive housing.

Housing for Health’s goals for the coming year include opening a 50-bed sobering center in Skid Row, where law enforcement, fire departments and C3 teams can send people whose primary issue at the time of contact is severe intoxication. It will be a safe place for chronic alcoholics to sober up and be linked to interventions that help them break out of the destructive cycle through streets, jails and hospitals.

Setting Cyber Defense Standards

Determined to thwart cyber attacks, the Board of Supervisors voted to establish strict security standards for confidential and sensitive information handled by Los Angeles County contractors and subcontractors. It is the first in the nation to take such comprehensive step in data protection.

The new policy comes just months after Los Angeles County encrypted all 88,392 of its desktop computers.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored the motion that prompted both of those efforts to safeguard personally identifiable information and protected health information.

“Efficient, reliable, useful, modern, quality and secure Information Technology systems are a critical component of good government,” he said. “Our security and quality safeguards need to keep up with the increasing cyber-security threats.”

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai recommended the new policy, saying it “reduces our overall risk of a data breach.”

Sophisticated encryption software and tools will add security layers to protected Personally Identifiable Information, which includes social security numbers, names, home addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and biometric records. It will also secure Protected Health Information, which applies to data about a person’s physical or mental health condition as recorded by a healthcare provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school and other entities.

Over the years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has put in motion several efforts to upgrade and secure the County’s Information Technology systems, including:

•  requiring regular audits for IT safety

consolidating 49 separate data centers into one centralized location

• creating a centralized electronic health record system for the Departments of Health, Public Health, Mental Health and Public Safety; and

• fostering accountability and transparency by creating a state-of-the-art Open Data website where residents can access information ranging from restaurant ratings to crime statistics to county expenditures.

Small Businesses Get A Boost

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Advocates for small business who testified in favor of the motion during the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting.

Many local small businesses, as well as those owned by disabled veterans, are about to get a new customer: Los Angeles County.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Chair Hilda Solis, the Board of Supervisors approved the Small Business, Disabled Veteran-Owned Business and Social Enterprise Utilization Plan. Its goal is to ensure that by 2020, at least 25 percent of the County’s procurement contracts are awarded to local small businesses, while 3 percent go to businesses owned by disabled veterans.

Currently, the County spends $3.9 billion on procurement contracts every year.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas listens to a representative of Homeboy Industries testifying in favor of the motion at the Board’s Jan. 12, 2016 meeting

“Supporting small businesses is good business for the County, as these enterprises provide half of all jobs in the region,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“Growing small businesses generate more tax revenues for local governments to provide critically needed services,” he added. “Small businesses also offer our youth the entry-level jobs needed to develop essential skills that provide a pathway for moving on to higher paying careers.”

The County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs said it is critical that the County expand its pool of certified businesses from the current level of 1,280 to a level comparable to the State of California, which has a pool of more than 5,000 certified small businesses in the County. Plans are underway for the County to streamline the certification process.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the plan also includes the County doing its fair share of business with social enterprises that provide training and jobs to disadvantaged members of our community. He added that the County and the community benefit by gainfully employing those who would otherwise be dependent on taxpayer-funded social safety net programs.