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.

The Advocates in LA County

Over half a million people are homeless in the United States–25% of whom are in California.

Amid public outcry over the ballooning homeless population in Los Angeles–nearly 54,000 people on any given night–three advocates with three different organizations show what the lost ideal of “care in the community” looks like amid a changing policy landscape.

“The only thing standing between many Angelenos and homelessness is a single moment of bad luck,” says filmmaker Rémi Kessler, whose documentary “The Advocates” is now in theaters.

“I hope from the bottom of my heart that in 10 years, homelessness will have been solved—that this film will just be a document depicting a moment in time when the city came together to solve a crisis,” said Kessler.

Intensely human and humanizing, “The Advocates,” provides a sweeping look at the historic and current causes of Los Angeles’ unprecedented crisis, largely due to the lack of affordable housing. It goes behind the headlines with pragmatic stories of the transformative work that is possible when compassion is combined with the right resources and funding such as Measure H.

Passed by Los Angeles County voters in March 2017, Measure H has provided thousands of people with an unprecedented level of services.

“Thanks to this ongoing investment, we are housing more people than ever before, and are still ramping up our compassionate and innovative services to help our most vulnerable neighbors live a life of dignity and purpose,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed Measure H, which is highlighted in the documentary.

“The Advocates” is playing at the Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, North Hollywood, Encino, and Pasadena.

Measure H Year-One Report Card

Outreach worker offers services to a man in Skid Row. Photo by Mayra Vasquez / Los Angeles County.

Results of the first full year of Measure H funding are in, demonstrating widespread progress as services ramped up and thousands of individuals and families were housed temporarily or permanently.

Significantly, 7,448 homeless families and individuals are now in permanent housing, thanks specifically to funding from Measure H since services began in July 2017. More than 2,200 of those placements took place in the past three months.

In addition, 13,524 people entered crisis, bridge and interim housing funded in whole or in part by Measure H in the first full year of implementation. That figure includes 2,179 individuals who were provided with interim housing after they were discharged from institutions such as jails or hospitals.

Measure H was passed by Los Angeles County voters in March 2017, with services beginning the following July. Between July 2017 and June 2018, thousands of people benefited directly from programs funded by the measure. In addition to the housing placements, there was progress in other key areas, including:

  • 2,842 clients were linked to new Intensive Case Management Services for permanent supportive housing, 1,317 clients received federal rental subsidies and 1,229 clients received local rental subsidies.
  • More than 300 Measure H-funded outreach workers, including those assigned to 36 multidisciplinary outreach teams, are now working across the County to address the immediate needs of homeless residents and link them to programs and services.
  • Countywide Benefits Entitlement Services Teams helped 6,824 disabled individuals with applications for Supplemental Security Income or Veterans Disability Benefits.
  • Between December 2017 and May 2018, 972 new jobs in the homeless services delivery system have been filled across the region—an important achievement to build capacity among providers.

“When voters approved Measure H, they trusted us to deliver tangible results,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “These first-year numbers are very encouraging. While we still have a lot of work ahead, providing permanent housing for 7,448 people experiencing homelessness and temporary housing for 13,524 more is a great start, and we will continue to build on it.”

“The epidemic of homelessness is still a crisis, but we are making noticeable progress,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Mobile showers, criminal expungement, and most importantly, building affordable housing is essential for restoring dignity, self-confidence, and placing our most vulnerable residents into sustainable housing. Thank you to L.A. County voters for supporting Measure H to fund these critical services for those suffering from homelessness, and to help prevent homelessness before it begins.”

“We saw a four percent decline in homelessness this year—something that never would have happened without Measure H,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Thanks to this ongoing investment, we are housing more people than ever before, and are still ramping up our compassionate and innovative services to help our most vulnerable neighbors live a life of dignity and purpose.”

“We are just one year into our ambitious effort to address homelessness but these numbers show that our strategies are the right ones and we are beginning to make progress,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who coauthored the motion to put Measure H on the ballot. “Not only are we helping tens of thousands of people find homes and housing, we are connecting thousands more with the mental healthcare, addiction treatment, and social services they need to begin putting their lives back together.”

“These first-year results show that the initial impact of enhanced supportive services and expanded outreach efforts, along with new interim and permanent supportive housing, will allow us to assist individuals in ending their cycle of homelessness,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “We look forward to continuing to implement our diverse strategies to truly meet people where they are. For some, that may mean connection to a job and sustainable income. For others, it may mean ongoing services through permanent supportive housing. We will not solve this problem with a one-size-fits all approach. While our first-year accomplishments are remarkable, we have a long way to go.”

Through the voter-approved ¼-cent sales tax, Measure H is expected to generate $355 million a year for 10 years in funding dedicated to fighting homelessness. The five-year goal is to provide permanent housing for 45,000 families and individuals, while preventing homelessness for 30,000 others.

“The Year One numbers demonstrate meaningful progress across all dimensions of the County’s commitment to combat and prevent homelessness and indicate that we are on track to meet those five-year goals,” said Phil Ansell, Director of the County Homeless Initiative.

Innovative Solutions to House People Living in Vehicles

(Left to Right) Dr. Scott Sale, Safe Parking LA; Nathaniel Williams, HOPICS; Lindsay Jo Garcia, St Joseph Center; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Emily Kantrim, Safe Parking LA; Christian Riehl, St Joseph Center; Andre Baker, HOPICS. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive set of solutions to build on the success of an interagency effort that has already helped 59 people living in vehicles move into stable, affordable housing over the past year.

Authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the motion called for expanding the use of public and private lots countywide to provide safe overnight parking to people living in vehicles, and for creating more sanitary conditions for them and nearby County residents.

Photo courtesy of Safe Parking LA by Hans Gutknecht / Los Angeles Daily News.

The motion also sought to curb the resale and reuse of dilapidated and unsafe vehicles where people had lived before finding housing, and directed the drafting of an ordinance to streamline the roles of public and private partners involved in complex issue. Finally, it called for establishing a pilot program to help the growing concentration of people living in vehicles in unincorporated West Rancho Dominguez, Rosewood and Willowbrook over the past decade.

“We need to keep the momentum going and scale up our efforts to help people move out of their vehicles and into affordable housing,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We are innovating. We are implementing. And we are appropriately legislating.”

Over the last year, the County has been working closely with street outreach teams staffed by experienced nonprofit homeless service providers such as HOPICS and St. Joseph Center, who go out into the streets every day to offer services to the homeless. To date, their hard work has resulted in 59 people move out of their cars and into affordable housing.

Testifying in support of the motion, HOPICS’ Andre Baker told the Board, “We would like to continue this project, as well as to innovate and implement new projects to reduce vehicle homelessness in the county.”

“The motion will solidify a continuous effort to go out to the voiceless, and be a beacon of light for the lost,” Christian Riehl of St. Joseph Center told the Board. “We will leave this world better than we found it – one person at a time.”

The motion also called for funding more safe parking options countywide. The County has been working with the nonprofit Safe Parking LA to provide safe parking at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Koreatown.

Safe Parking LA’s Scott Sale told the Board, “I wholeheartedly support this motion and especially applaud the directive to expand safe parking countywide. Our mission is simple. We want to end vehicular homelessness through private and public support because having to sleep in your car is not a crime.”