Ensuring Collaboration and Accountability in Homeless Funding

IMG_4679

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hears testimony on his motion. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

With voters weighing Measure H on March 7, the Board of Supervisors kicked off a collaborative and transparent process for budgeting prospective funds from the ballot initiative so that experts, stakeholders and members of the public have an opportunity to participate in crafting a plan to end homelessness.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that establishes “an inclusive planning process which draws on the experience, expertise and wisdom of cities, homeless service providers and experts, the faith and business communities, formerly homeless individuals and County departments.”

12

Chairman Ridley-Thomas said, “Our objective here is to evidence that we are serious about accountability, serious about transparency, and to be comprehensive as is committed in the ballot language.”

Supervisor Kuehl added, “We can only succeed if we have the input and support of the very civic and community leaders who are going to help us house the 47,000 people currently homeless in the County.” 

Measure H is expected to raise about $350 million every year for a decade to provide multidimensional services and housing assistance for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, Measure H would generate funds to provide the homeless with, among other services:

• mental health and substance abuse treatments
• health care
• education and job training
• rental and housing subsidies
• case management and services
• emergency and affordable housing
• transportation
• outreach, prevention and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals and other homeless adults.

IMG_4681

L-R: Phil Ansell, Homeless Initiative; Joseph Altepeter, Downtown Women’s Center; Eva Williams, CSH.

The services would be consistent with the County’s Homeless Initiative which developed 47 strategies for preventing and combatting homelessness after conducting 18 policy summits that brought together more than 1,000 experts and stakeholders.

Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell vowed the budget planning process for Measure H would also be “inclusive, collaborative and transparent,” with meetings open to the public and subject to the Brown Act. 

“To ensure the funding is allocated as fairly and effectively as possible, it is vital that key stakeholders such as service providers, housing and homeless experts, County departments and individuals with lived homeless experiences, are engaged in the process,” Joseph Altepeter, director of vocational education and social enterprise at the Downtown Women’s Center, told the Board.

“It is only through a collaborative and coordinated approach that we will realize success in housing all of our homeless neighbors living throughout Los Angeles,” agreed Eva Williams, Los Angeles director of CSH, a nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable individuals and families.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending. A Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board will also publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik, Los Angeles Business Council president Mary Leslie, New Directions for Veterans President and CEO Yvette Kelley and Children’s Defense Fund-California Executive Director Alex Johnson signed the argument in favor of Measure H. There were no arguments submitted against Measure H. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.45.52 PM

Documenting the Crisis of Homelessness

Participating in the nation’s largest census of homeless people, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas walked the streets of Leimert Park and North Hollywood to observe firsthand what he has called the defining civic crisis of our time.

He joined an estimated 6,000 volunteers who spread out across 4,000 square miles over three bitterly cold nights to conduct the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count on January 24-26.

A homeless encampment in Leimert Park. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

A homeless encampment in Leimert Park. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

Talking to Homeless Count volunteers in Leimert Park (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

Led by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), volunteers looked under bridges, in alleys, at makeshift encampments and other locations to find out where the homeless live. They also conducted demographic surveys to determine how many among the homeless are veterans, youth aging out of the foster care system, people with physical or mental disabilities, and other subgroups with special needs.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin, LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn and Commission Chair Wendy Greuel, and LA Family Housing President & CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer kicked off the census in the San Fernando Valley, which has seen a tremendous increase in its homeless population.

IMG_0332

Participating in the Homeless Count at North Hollywood. (Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Just before volunteers began the Count in North Hollywood, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas exhorted them to support Proposition H on the March 7 ballot. If approved by voters, the initiative would cost the average consumer little more than a dollar a month while investing $350 million annually over a decade on proven solutions for preventing and ending homelessness.

“Yes on H!” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told volunteers. “Walk tonight, vote tomorrow.” He expressed particular concern over the 55 percent increase in the number of homeless women countywide between 2013 and 2016.

On the third and last day of the Count, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas again joined volunteers, this time in Leimert Park. He documented people living in tents and trailers, and under tarps hung on tree branches.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas participates in the 2017 Homeless Count in Leimert Park.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas participates in the 2017 Homeless Count in Leimert Park.

The Count will provide an accurate picture of the state of homelessness countywide, and guide the delivery of programs and services to where they are most needed. During the demographic surveys, outreach teams directly connected the homeless individuals and families that they encountered to local service providers for assistance.

IMG_4418

Walking with volunteers in Leimert Park to document the homeless. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

LOCAL EDITION: Funding the Fight For Homelessness

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas sat down with Charter Local Edition host Brad Pomerance to discuss the crisis of homelessness and what the county is doing to help.

On any given night in Los Angeles County, there are nearly 47,000 homeless people, including 6,000 parents and their children. With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors recently declared homelessness an emergency in Los Angeles County, and asked voters to approve a March 7 ballot measure aimed at financing desperately needed solutions.

Board Declares Emergency and Places Homeless Initiative on Ballot

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors declared homelessness an emergency in Los Angeles County, and asked voters to approve a March 7 ballot measure aimed at financing desperately needed solutions.

It was one of the first acts of the newly reconstituted Board. It came in response to motions by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and after impassioned testimony from a capacity crowd in attendance at the Hall of Administration.

“All around us, we find human beings living in utter squalor – a shocking number of them families with children,” he said. “With this historic vote, we are taking a bold step towards ending this humanitarian crisis, the defining civic issue of our time.”

image11Voters will be asked to approve a ¼-cent sales tax that would raise about $355 million annually over a decade. “To put this funding in perspective, a ¼ cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television,” explained Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative.

If approved by 2/3 of voters, the ballot measure would fund rental assistance, subsidized healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and other services to help people get off – and stay off – the streets.

“The emergency declaration, which I co-authored with Supervisor Ridley Thomas, reinforces the County’s strong commitment to addressing – and solving – the homeless crisis in a compassionate way that will emphasize rehabilitation, mental health, alcohol/drug treatment and housing opportunities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

image6“This is the time to act to provide a dedicated revenue stream to begin to address the incredible crisis that we have with 47,000 people sleeping on our streets,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion for a March 7 ballot measure.

Both motions drew support from elected officials, as well as a coalition of 75 organizations representing advocates for the homeless; leaders of business, philanthropic, academic and faith-based communities; labor unions, environmentalists, and many others.

Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a video and letter to the Board, saying, “The ballot measure you plan to put before County voters in March will fund the supportive services that – combined with housing – will help get people off the streets permanently.” LA City Councilmen Jose Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Gil Cedillo also expressed support.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad added, “It’s very important that we provide the services that the homeless need, especially the 6,000 homeless children we have in Los Angeles County.”

coalition-of-75-2Alex Johnson of Children’s Defense Fund-California noted children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless are sick four times more often and four times more likely to show delayed development. “This measure would work to ensure all children have the care and stability they need to reach their full potential,” he said.

“The cost of not providing services is too high,” added Marsha Temple of Integrated Recovery Network. “The people experiencing homelessness who are severely disabled by mental incapacity are costing the county well over $1 billion a year.”

Gary Toebben of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said, “This is not just a social issue, this is also an economic issue. To provide proper care and housing to the homeless is to dramatically reduce the cost of other social services that we need in our community.”

LA County Firefighters Union Local 1014 President Dave Gilotte pledged solidarity with the Board, saying, “LA County finally made a decision today with these five great leaders to say we’re not going to walk past another homeless person and pretend like they don’t exist.”

In an emotional testimony, Reba Stevens, a formerly homeless person, urged the Board to move forward with the March 7 ballot measure. “I’m begging you, it’s what we must do,” she said.

coalition-of-75

CBS: Searching for solutions in America’s No. 1 state for homelessness


Homelessness is rising in California, in part because housing costs and rents have skyrocketed. Nearly 120,000 people are now homeless in the state. Sixty-six percent of them live on the street, the highest rate of people without shelter in the country.

“You cannot convince me on any day of the week that this is the way that people should have to live,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor.

Tents now line streets all over Los Angeles, so Ridley-Thomas wants Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency, using funds for natural disasters, to address homelessness.

[From CBSNews.com. Read more here.]