Study Reveals College Student Homelessness and Hunger

Lending urgency to Los Angeles County’s sweeping plan for addressing homelessness, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) revealed a survey of its students that found more than half were unsure about having a steady place to live, while one in five experienced homelessness in the past year.

“Education is the great equalizer in our society, and we must do all that we can to ensure the students in the LACCD system are able to undertake their studies without worrying about having a roof over their heads or enough food to eat,” County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said during a press conference at LA Trade-Technical College (LATTC).

Almost 6,000 of LACCD’s 134,000 students took the Survey on Food & Housing Insecurity. Among the findings: 18.6 percent of respondents experienced homelessness during 2016, while 55 percent struggled to pay their rent or mortgage and utility bills, and/or had to endure substandard housing conditions in unstable neighborhoods. Meanwhile, 62.7 percent of respondents reported not having enough to eat.

Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas Applauds Myriah Smiley for her resilience

Myriah Smiley, a 19-year-old former foster youth experiencing homelessness in Compton, is studying at LATTC in hopes of starting her own small business someday. She is staying at a friend’s house while awaiting public housing, and occasionally goes hungry. “It’s hard, but I’m still going,” she said.

LACCD Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin and Trustee Mike Eng said the district would make it easier for students to access on-campus and community resources that would help them secure housing, financial, healthcare and other assistance. The district also plans to let homeless students use on-campus shower facilities and other amenities, and to train faculty, staff and administrators to be more aware of their homeless students’ needs.

Board President Svonkin said, “LACCD has a responsibility to not only educate its students but to ensure that our students are in the best possible position to receive quality education without being hungry in our classrooms.” Trustee Eng added, “By acting on the recommendations contained in the report, we can ensure that our students have the opportunity to succeed without the burden of food insecurity and the stress of homelessness.”

Los Angeles County’s $30-billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 factors in $260 million in revenue from voter-approved Measure H, a ballot measure to fund services and housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The strategy is laid out in the County’s Homeless Initiative website.

Officials of LA County, LACCD and the LA Homeless Services Authority pledge action on homelessness

Los Angeles County Contends with Surge in 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, the County’s plan to address it, and the issue of Cannabis Commerce in the County.

“Los Angeles is the epicenter of homelessness in the nation,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas.

The most recent 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found Los Angeles County’s homeless population increased 23 percent over the past year to 57,794 —underscoring the urgency of the crisis and the need for action.

In its first five years, Measure H aims to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness and to enable 30,000 others to remain housed. In March 2017, County voters approved Measure H by 69.34%, creating a ¼-cent sales tax to combat homelessness. The board recently approved a wide-ranging set of recommendations by a 50-member panel to put Measure H funds to work for the County’s homeless citizens. This landmark funding plan commits nearly $259 million to fight homelessness in the next fiscal year—and tentatively earmarks more than $1 billion to the effort over the next three fiscal years.

Supervisors Approve $1 Billion Plan to Fight Homelessness

On the heels of an unprecedented commitment to a public planning process, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a wide-ranging set of recommendations to put voter-approved Measure H funds to work for the county’s homeless citizens.

Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

“Today is another historic day in the County of LA that highlights the energy and community collaboration being invested into the question of homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

A 50-member planning group composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds convened to develop funding recommendations for the first three years of Measure H revenue. After five public meetings, the planning group, composed of County government staff, as well as formerly homeless individuals, technical experts, nonprofit service providers, and leaders of the faith, business and philanthropic communities reached a consensus.

Over sixty organizations signed a letter to the Board of Supervisors in support of the open planning process and next step to allocate funding to homeless services. Implementing those recommendations will begin in earnest during the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Core strategies include:
· Sending outreach and engagement teams to reach the homeless on every street corner;
· Providing permanent housing with healthcare and other services;
· Expanding rapid rehousing for the newly homeless;
· Enhancing the emergency shelter system, including for those leavings jails and hospitals; and
· Strengthening the network of community nonprofits already serving homeless single adults, families and youth.recommendations

This landmark funding plan commits nearly $259 million to combat homelessness in the next fiscal year—and tentatively earmarks more than $1 billion to the effort over the next three fiscal years.

In its first five years, Measure H aims to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness and to enable 30,000 others to stay housed. The ¼-cent sales tax was approved by 69.34% of County voters in March 2017. The expanded funding comes as the latest Homeless Count found a 23% increase in homelessness in L.A. County over the past year, now nearly 58,000—underscoring the urgency of the crisis and need for action.

“The data is daunting, but we’re prepared. We have a plan. We’re motivated. And we’re moving forward on time to deliver services that our most vulnerable homeless residents need and deserve,” said Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Chairman Ridley-Thomas introduced a unanimously approved motion to closely track data and measure progress on measure H goals every six months. To that end, a five-member Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board will also be reviewing expenditures twice a year and publishing an annual accounting.

For more information on the County’s groundbreaking Homeless Initiative, go to http://homeless.lacounty.gov/.

Right to Counsel Without Fees for Indigents

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Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover and Alternate Public Defender Bruce Brodie testifying in favor of eliminating the $50 registration fee. Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to revoke a prior County resolution that charged indigent defendants a $50 registration fee to obtain legal services from a public defender.

 “Charging a $50 registration fee to obtain a public defender undermines the constitutionally-protected right to an attorney,” said Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “This motion will ensure that economic status does not prevent an accused from receiving proper legal representation.”

Supervisor Kuehl added, “Imagine you’re an indigent defendant and the first thing your ‘free’ government lawyer does is hand you a form that requires you to pay $50 within five days!”

“We want to be sure that low-income defendants who are eligible for legal counsel from the Public Defender’s office can actually get the services of that legal counsel,” she said. “That is their constitutional right.” 

Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover said the Public Defender’s Office is in favor of doing away with the fee, which is usually discussed with the client for the first time during arraignment. “We believe that discussing registration fees with a client you just met, when you’re trying to gain that client’s trust, and you’re trying to identify legal issues connected with the case, are barriers to our representation,” she told the Board.

Los Angeles County has “requested” that defendants pay the registration fee since 1996, to offset the cost of providing court-appointed counsel. It is estimated that the Public Defender’s office will collect approximately $300,000 in such fees for this fiscal year. Defendants who don’t pay are referred to a private for-profit collections agency to recoup uncollected registration fees.

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Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel and Human Rights Watch testifying in favor of the motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.

 

A Call to Action on Homelessness


Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a call to action after the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found Los Angeles County’s homeless population increased 23 percent over the past year to 57,794.

“We have business to do,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said at a press conference organized by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). “No hand-wringing, no fretting, no ‘woe is me’ – it’s just simply time to roll up our sleeves and do what we know needs to be done. You’ve got to be ready to fight to end homelessness in the County of Los Angeles.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas said voters’ passage of Measure H in March and Proposition HHH in November has “afforded us an opportunity to do what we have never ever had the opportunity to do in this region, and that is to step forward with our imagination, our compassion, our resources, and confront the issue of homelessness in the County of Los Angeles.”

“I am not at all discouraged by this (Homeless Count),” Chairman Ridley-Thomas added. “Many of us sensed that there was an uptick, and these numbers validate that. The good news is that we have the capacity, for the first time, to stand up to it.”

Measure H is a 1/4-cent sales tax expected to raise $355 million annually for services to the homeless countywide. It creates an unprecedented funding stream expected to move 45,000 homeless men, women and children into stable housing within the next five years, and provide them with the high-quality, multi-dimensional supportive services they need to succeed in the long run. It is also intended to prevent an estimated 30,000 people from becoming homeless in the first place. Proposition HHH, meanwhile, is a $1.2-billion bond measure estimated to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles.

“We have no excuse not to do our very best because we are now equipped,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said, adding the County’s Homeless Initiative is “digging in deep” and so are city governments, nonprofit service providers and others engaged in the fight against homelessness. “There’s an army out there, and we’re ready to do what we must do,” he said.

On June 13, the Board of Supervisors will hear the final report of a 50-member planning group convened to develop funding recommendations for the first three years of Measure H revenue, totaling about $1 billion. Implementing those recommendations will begin in earnest during the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Core strategies include:

  • Sending outreach and engagement teams to reach the homeless on every street corner;
  • Providing permanent housing with healthcare and other services;
  • Expanding rapid rehousing for the newly homeless;
  • Enhancing the emergency shelter system, including for those leavings jails and hospitals; and
  • Strengthening the network of community nonprofits already serving homeless single adults, families and youth.

“This planning effort has not been done in haste,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “It is a reflection of years of work, principally by the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles with the input of thousands of stakeholders, to develop plans to deal with homelessness in a collaborative way.”

Also in attendance at the press conference were Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Marqueece Harris Dawson and LAHSA Commissioner Wendy Greuel and Executive Director Peter Lynn.

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