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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Measure H Funding Consensus

With Measure H about to pay dividends, a 50-member planning group reached consensus on funding and strategy recommendations to put before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors as it prepares to mount one of the nation’s largest initiatives to eradicate homelessness.

At the conclusion of the planning group’s final meeting, County Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell said, “Nothing short of a consensus-based stakeholder process of this nature would do justice to this historic moment in our effort to combat homelessness.”

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, the planning group convened five meetings – all open to the public – to develop funding recommendations for the first three years of Measure H revenue, totaling about $1 billion.

It also endorsed 21 strategies, with an emphasis on ramping up resources for “core strategies,” which include:

  • augmented outreach and engagement to reach the homeless on every street corner
  • providing permanent housing with healthcare and other services
  • rapid rehousing for the newly homeless
  • enhancing the emergency shelter system, including for those exiting jails and hospitals
  • strengthening the network of community nonprofits already serving homeless single adults, families and youth

The recommendations will be presented to the Board on June 13.

Reba Stevens, a member of the planning group who spent 21 years living on the streets, said, “Now that we’re here and at the final stage, I’m truly, truly, hopeful. I’m excited because there are such opportunities and possibilities – they’re endless! I know that we’re going to do this, that we’re actually going to position ourselves to end homelessness.”

“It’s pretty inspiring,” added Janice Martin, another member of the planning group and an ecumenical liaison for Brothers and Sisters in Communications, which provides outreach to faith-based institutions. She added that while faith-based institutions are “already first responders” to the homeless by providing counseling and charitable services, they can be mobilized to take on an even greater role under the Homeless Initiative.

Beth Steckler, deputy director of the nonprofit Move LA, expressed appreciation for the diversity of the planning group’s members and the openness of its meetings. “I think it’s extraordinary for the County to run a transparent process to bring stakeholders together, and invite the public to come and participate,” she said. “I think it shows a great deal of political maturity.”

Measure H is a 1/4-cent County sales tax approved by nearly 70 percent of voters on March 7, and projected to raise about $355 million annually for 10 years. It is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within the next five years, and to prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending, and a Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Board will publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations. The County will continue to release quarterly progress reports in connection with the Homeless Initiative strategies. Finally, the nonprofits that implement the strategies will be held to specific outcomes and standards, tracked and monitored by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the County CEO and County Department of Health Services, and other relevant County departments.

Planning the Next Step with Measure H

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All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas brought together key stakeholders in the fight against homelessness to collaborate on a spending plan for Measure H, after a supermajority approved the ballot measure creating an unprecedented annual funding stream for programs to end and prevent homelessness in Los Angeles County.

“It is imperative that we draw on the expertise and experience of those on the frontlines in the fight against homelessness, as well as those who have lived it, to get the best bang for our buck with Measure H,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

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Acting on a Feb. 7 motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, County CEO Sachi Hamai and Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell convened a 50-member planning group that includes County government staff and technical experts, representatives of cities within the County, nonprofit service providers, leaders of the faith, business and philanthropic communities, and formerly homeless individuals.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending, and a Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Board will publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations. The County will continue to release quarterly progress reports in connection with the Homeless Initiative strategies. Finally, the nonprofits that implement the strategies will be held to specific outcomes and standards, tracked and monitored by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, the County CEO and County Department of Health Services, and other relevant County departments.

“The voters of Los Angeles County have clearly demonstrated their commitment to combating homelessness by approving Measure H,” County CEO Hamai said. “Today, we demonstrated our commitment to them by beginning a process that will ensure transparency and accountability in making sure every dollar is spent effectively and efficiently.”

“Los Angeles County voters have entrusted us with $355 million annually to fund supportive services for our homeless neighbors,” added Elise Buik, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which hosted the first planning group meeting at its headquarters. “Now, it’s our responsibility as a community to mobilize these resources effectively and efficiently – and that can only be done with a diverse coalition of community stakeholders: faith leaders, homeless service providers, community organizations and civic leaders.”

The planning group’s meetings on April 6, April 20 and May 10 are open to the public. Measure H is a 1/4-cent County sales tax that would generate approximately $355 million annually. This dedicated funding is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within five years and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

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