Thinking Outside the Box to Address Homelessness

The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative announced the winners of the first-ever Housing Innovation Challenge, a call for proposals that has awarded $4.5 million in Measure H funding for game-changing creative and scalable permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. The Housing Innovation Challenge has made four awards at the $1 million level and one at the $500,000 level for faster, cost-effective construction/rehabilitation and/or creative finance models to produce permanent housing for the County’s most vulnerable residents.

Housing Innovation Challenge Winner United Dwelling depicts garage conversion rendering.

At a time of heightened collaboration in the region, this effort was designed to activate stakeholders and creative strategists across the region to contribute sustainable solutions to homelessness. The Challenge received more than 50 proposals, which were evaluated by a panel of experts in urban planning, real estate development, affordable housing and architecture. Each awarded project will result in the production of permanent housing for homeless families or individuals in Los Angeles County.

“Everyone who calls Los Angeles home should live in communities that afford them dignity and worth,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “These novel yet practical solutions will allow the County and its private sector partners to scale up compassion and innovation in a thoughtful manner. This is truly Measure H at work!”

Housing Innovation Challenge Winner “Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles” depicts accessible units with equity participation from neighbors in South LA.

The funded projects are:

  • Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Inc. – NEST: A Prefab Modular, Sustainable Kit of Parts that can be assembled on any typical 50 x 150 parcel ($1 million)
  • Flyaway Homes, LLC – Modular Permanent Supportive Housing Communities, to scale their model of leveraging private equity to develop supportive housing faster and at ¼ the cost per person ($1 million)
  • LifeArk, SPC – LifeArk Micro-Communities, a kit-of-parts building system that is developable on any lot size or shape ($1 million)
  • United Dwelling – Detached Garage Conversion into Affordable Studios, for its institutional development of beautifully-designed garage-converted Accessory Dwelling Units ($ 1 million)
  • Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles – South LA Bungalow Project for its neighborhood shared equity model for accessible units built by-right in a traditional bungalow style courtyard ($500,000)

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas shows off the three winning projects that will be built in the Second District of Los Angeles County.

“The Challenge was issued at a critical juncture in the Countywide movement to combat and prevent homelessness,” said Phil Ansell, Director, L.A. County Homeless Initiative. “While our collective efforts are moving in the right direction, this was a unique opportunity to solicit new approaches and continue to advance our efforts to help people move from homelessness to housing.”

Three of the winners –Flyaway Homes, United Dwelling, and Restore Neighborhoods — plan to implement projects in the County’s Second District. Meanwhile, another winner, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, is headquartered in the Second District.

To view the winning submissions and honorable mentions, visit housinginnovationchallenge.com.

 

Winners of the Housing Innovation Challenge join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell. All photos by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Making Sure Everyone Counts

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined more than 7,000 volunteers who fanned out across Los Angeles County over three nights for the 2019 Homeless Count, a federally mandated annual census to guide programs and services where most needed.

At a press conference, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted the results of last year’s Count showed a decline for the first time in four years, and he stressed the importance of sustaining that momentum.

“Thanks to Measure H, our public and nonprofit partners are on track to house 45,000 men, women and children over a period of five years,” he said. “We have already collectively housed almost 10,000 men, women and children — and that’s just over the last 15 months. Each of us has a part to play in helping resolve this humanitarian crisis, whether by gathering data during the Count, or by using the LA-HOP website throughout the year to connect our unhoused neighbors to street outreach workers.”

Priscilla and Ryan Coughran prepare to participate in the homeless Count. All photos by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Priscilla and Ryan Coughran and their young children were among those who participated in this year’s Count. The family had been homeless themselves until the County stepped in to provide them with housing and services. Now, the couple is determined to help others who are still struggling, while also teaching their sons an important life lesson. “Us experiencing homelessness as a family, it was important to us that even after we got housed that we didn’t forget that, that our boys didn’t forget that,” Priscilla said.

The data from the Count offers a comprehensive look at the state of homelessness in Los Angeles County on any given night, including geographic distribution and trends among various populations. The results will be released in May 2019.

The 2018 Count showed the number of people experiencing homelessness decreased to about 53,000 people — a 4 percent drop from 2017, and the first decline since 2014. Both the County and City of Los Angeles are working to sustain that progress with Measure H and the County’s Homeless Initiative, Proposition HHH, and other initiatives combat homelessness.

Thanks to Measure H, the County has moved nearly 10,000 people into permanent housing since July 2017, and placed nearly 18,000 people into temporary housing during the same period. More than 700 outreach workers are now working across the County helping homeless residents access housing and support services.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas greets residents of a homeless encampment on the first day of the homeless count.

For those unable to participate in the Count, they can still direct street outreach teams to their unhoused neighbors by using a new web portal called Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal or LA-HOP. Funded by Measure H, the mobile-friendly platform empowers members of the general public, first responders and service providers to provide information on homeless persons on the street and request outreach.

LA-HOP is a valuable new tool to get services to vulnerable residents living on the street. It makes it easier and more efficient for the public to request help and have it dispatched to connect homeless persons with outreach workers.

Kingdom Day Parade 2019

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with street outreach workers and advocates at the 34th Annual Kingdom Day Parade. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

More than a hundred people on the frontlines of helping the homeless – from street outreach workers to advocates – joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the 34th annual Kingdom Day Parade, drawing grateful cheers and applause from the crowds in South Los Angeles.

On a day dedicated to paying tribute to the legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also found plenty of reasons to celebrate street outreach workers, who fan out across Los Angeles County every day in search of the homeless, build a rapport with them, and offer them a wide range of services, from healthcare to housing.

85 healthcare and housing workers join Supervisor Ridley-Thomas along the parade route. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

About 85 street outreach workers participated in the parade, many of them working for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the LA County Department of Mental Health or working for nonprofits such as HOPICS and St. Joseph Center, contracted by LA County Department of Health Services.

“I believe that involuntary poverty is a form of violence… and homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of involuntary poverty,’” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Together with these street outreach workers, let us all roll up our sleeves, open our hearts, and extend our hands to help our unhoused neighbors.”

United Way of Greater Los Angeles encouraged everyone watching the parade to join its Everyone In campaign, learn more about people experiencing homelessness, stay informed on supportive housing, and seek opportunities to attend community events and advocate for solutions in each neighborhood.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Kingdom Day parade marked what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday. It featured Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts as grand marshal, and the theme: “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Democracy.”

The parade traveled on MLK Boulevard, Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, ending with a festival at Leimert Park. Thousands of people lined the streets to cheer on dozens of marching bands, floats, equestrian units, drill teams, dance groups, and dignitaries, including LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby and LA City Police Chief Michel Moore, just to name a few.

LA County Enhances Shelter Standards

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas surveys a room at the MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook, where homeless patients from hospitals and clinics can recover before being connected to supportive housing. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Bolstering the countywide movement to combat and prevent homelessness, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to establish a new public health permit and licensing requirement to ensure uniform countywide standards for interim housing facilities that serve people experiencing homelessness.

The ordinance is the first element in a three-pronged approach to strengthen the coordinated system of interim housing, which includes: establishing uniform facility standards; implementing service standards across all publicly-funded interim housing; and instituting a uniform grievance and complaint process. These recommendations stem from a six-month collaborative process convened by the County Chief Executive Office/ Homeless Initiative, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Public Health, in conjunction with people who have experienced homelessness, and nonprofit operators of interim housing.

MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

The enactment of this ordinance will allow the Department of Public Health – Environmental Health to implement a new inspection program to ensure that interim housing facilities comply with applicable health and safety requirements, as well as requirements that are specifically tailored to this type of temporary housing. The public health permit ordinance covers 7,700 beds in 327 interim housing facilities, of which 234 are publicly funded and 93 are privately funded.

“My commitment to protecting the health and safety of L.A. County residents extends to individuals who seek temporary shelter in our interim housing facilities,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “As we work to expand interim housing options for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, we must also ensure that new and existing facilities meet health and safety requirements. This ordinance will enable the Department of Public Health to ensure the quality of our interim housing facilities, especially recuperative care housing.”

“With this ordinance, we will ensure that Los Angeles County remains a standard bearer for accountability and performance, especially when it comes to serving the homeless,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the development of uniform shelter standards. “Our goal with Measure H has always been to create communities where everyone can live with dignity and purpose, and this includes shelters and other interim housing facilities.”

“As we expand our interim housing we want to make sure that the buildings reflect the standards we’ve set for achieving our goal of stabilizing the lives of those experiencing homelessness and assisting them in their journey toward permanent homes,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We are expanding interim beds quickly, and we need to ensure quality as well as quantity.”

“Many families who we are working to lift out of homelessness will spend time in interim housing before moving into a permanent home, and we have to ensure that these are clean, safe places to live,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn.

“Ensuring that health and safety standards are met in interim housing facilities improves the wellbeing and long-term outcomes for those attempting to rise out of homelessness,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

First-of-its-Kind Online Tool to Address Street Homelessness

A first-of-its-kind online tool now helps address street homelessness in Los Angeles County.  The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority launched the Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal, dubbed LA-HOP. Funded by Measure H, the new mobile-friendly platform empowers members of the public, first responders and service providers to provide information on homeless persons on the street and request outreach.

“With just a few taps on a cell phone, LA-HOP makes it easier to request help for people experiencing homelessness on the streets of L.A. County,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This innovative tool will help us deploy our street outreach teams where they are most needed, so they can begin building relationships with our homeless neighbors and offer to connect them to services and housing.”

LA-HOP (la-hop.org) is a valuable new tool to get services to vulnerable residents living on the street. It makes it easier and more efficient for the public to request help and have it dispatched to connect homeless persons with outreach workers. The portal takes the guesswork out of figuring out geographic boundaries, by seamlessly routing requests and tracking the response. An outreach coordinator in each region serves as the “air traffic controller” for all requests and deploys the most appropriate outreach team, with the goal of reducing response times to those in need.

“This website is an important new addition to the many ways in which county, city, nonprofits and community leaders are working together to reduce homelessness,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “It gives the public a way to directly seek help for men, women and families experiencing homelessness. No single solution is a magic bullet, but each step we take gets us closer to our goal of making sure that every man, woman and child in L.A. County has a home.”

The Countywide movement to prevent and combat homelessness is constantly seeking new approaches to deliver what’s working more effectively. LA-HOP is designed to advance efforts to help people move from homelessness to housing by activating the general public to become part of the solution.

“LA-HOP provides a quick and easy way for residents to be a part of the solution to help combat homelessness by connecting homeless individuals to critical supportive services,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.   “With this portal, we get real-time information about where homeless individuals are, allowing us to connect them to resources more quickly and efficiently.”

LA-HOP was designed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Health Agency and the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. Due to high demand, it may take a few days for an outreach team to be deployed; coordinators will prioritize those individuals who are most vulnerable. With nearly 40,000 people living on the streets of LA County, the need for outreach services is great.

“There are plenty of people in L.A. County who come across a person struggling with homelessness and don’t know what to do to get them help,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “LA-HOP is an innovative tool that makes it easy for the public to request help for people in need anywhere in L.A. County.  If this homelessness crisis has proven anything, it is that our county is full of compassionate, caring people and this online portal allows them to be part of the solution.”

“LA-HOP is a powerful tool to directly target resources and outreach to people experiencing homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “By efficiently routing support and empowering the public, this new Measure H-funded web portal will be an important part of our effort to quickly help the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Outreach teams responding to LA-HOP requests also conduct ongoing outreach all across the County. The portal does not replace homeless encampment reporting protocols established by the City of Los Angeles (my311), the County of Los Angeles and other jurisdictions.