10,000+ Voices in the #Fight4Homeless

In just one week’s time, over 10,000 Californians signed a petition calling on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in California, due to the pervasive and deepening homelessness crisis. The letter with 11,370 signatures was delivered to the Governor on Monday evening. The petition’s comments resonate with compassion, frustration, idealism and moral indignation. Supporters’ reasons for signing the petition are as varied as California itself. To scroll through the hundreds of comments posted is to encounter those who are currently or formerly homeless, or desperately worried about loved ones and fellow human beings living without a roof over their heads. Some say they’re frightened, heartbroken, moved to action or overwhelmed by what they see around them in their communities. They all agree– enough is enough.

On any given night in Los Angeles County, there are nearly 47,000 homeless people, including 6,000 parents and their children. Nearly two-thirds live in the City of Los Angeles. Statewide, there are more than 115,000 homeless people – 21% of the entire nation’s homeless population.

From Compton to Coronado, Santa Fe Springs to San Francisco, Long Beach to Lompoc, more than 10,000 people in Los Angeles County and throughout the state realize there is a crisis of homelessness. The Board of Supervisors, acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, voted unanimously to urge the governor to declare a state of emergency.

“I’d like to invite him (Gov. Brown) down to Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in an interview with the LA Times while visiting Sacramento this week, his fourth trip in four weeks regarding homelessness.

The Board of Supervisors is seeking a resolution from the Assembly and Senate urging the governor to take action.

“I strongly believe that we have a historic opportunity to act now,” said the Supervisor in a letter to the governor following his second trip to Sacramento. “I again invite you to tour with me..” he said in a follow up letter June 23.

“Join me on social media,” said the Supervisor. “Tell the governor who you are, and invite him to see homelessness for himself.”

L.A. County residents from various professions have responded and invited the governor for a firsthand look at the crisis.

“Governor, I’m a surgical technician. We need to work some surgery on homelessness. Visit LA and see for yourself,” wrote one resident on Facebook.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas voiced the urgency on behalf of thousands of Californians. Here are some voices in the conversation. Some of the comments have been condensed.

“Governor, I’m a surgical technician. We need to work some surgery on homelessness.  Visit LA and see for yourself,” wrote one resident on Facebook.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas voiced the urgency on behalf of thousands of Californians. Here are some voices in the conversation. Some of the comments have been condensed.

“I’m signing this because I am my brother’s keeper.”

Ricardo Hernandez, West Covina, CA

“Everyone should have a home.”
Penelope Tafoya, Sacramento, CA

“This is absolutely shameful. The homelessness crisis is a disgrace to our supposedly advanced society…It’s EVERYBODY’S problem.”
Laura Sakoi, Sacramento, CA

“Humans help humans.”
Gilbert Medina, Montebello, CA

“I believe in saving lives.”
Dorothy Edwards, Pasadena, CA

“My faith, Judaism, requires me to do so.”

Jonathan Klein, Los Angeles, CA

“Having a home is everyone’s God-given right.”
Ann Dufour, Sacramento, CA

“It’s too much, dude, it’s just too much. People need places to live.”
Rosemarie Grantham, San Jose, CA

“I’m signing this because WE ARE THE CHANGE.”
Ruby Roxana Escobar, Los Angeles, CA

“I feel like I take my life in my hands every time I walk down the street in Hollywood. There are too many mentally ill homeless here…I have a young child, and I hate having her exposed to this.”
Lynne Felderman, Hollywood, CA

“This is disgraceful that we can’t do better. We are smarter and kinder than this.”

Kathryn Proctor, Encino, CA

“I have a homeless granddaughter with 2 little girls, ages 9 months and 2 years.”
Cylinda King, Compton, CA

“Kids need a home.”
Alex Mejia, Los Angeles, CA

“Los Angeles is big enough to house everyone.”
Rebecca Gray, Glendale, CA

“I’ve never felt so overwhelmed and so disgusted that one of the biggest economies on earth can allow this to happen to its citizens.”
Sandra Bonaparte, South Pasadena, CA

“No one should be homeless in this great land of wealth.”

Mayisha Akbar, Compton, CA

“I have seen the homeless crisis grow and change in San Francisco, and I have seen its impact on the elderly, the disabled, children, and people of color.”
Jessica Gibbs, San Francisco, CA

“I could be next.”
Talitha James, Los Angeles, CA

“I am human.”
Lois Blomdal, Compton, CA

“If brotherly love doesn’t move you, consider the tax dollar savings.”
Jed Pauker, Venice, CA

“How can we accept that this situation is occurring in America?”

Bettina Gantsweg, Marina del Rey, CA

“Being homeless is cruel and unusual punishment.”
Marylouise Oates, Los Angeles, CA

“I am lucky to have a home but there are so many innocent people who do not. Please help our most vulnerable and by doing so, raise us all up.”
Sharon Sekhon, Los Angeles, CA

“Homelessness can happen to anyone—you and me included.”
Veronica Perez, Los Angeles, CA

“I have been homeless.”
Kecia Oakley, Vacaville, CA

“Homelessness is a crime against humanity.”

Christopher Bratten, West Hollywood, CA

“Homelessness is a killer. People are dying in the streets.”
Christina Miller, Canoga Park, CA

“Because enough is enough! It’s time to stop putting band aids on this problem and provide the resources for a real solution.”
Sandi Cook, Los Angeles, CA

“When I see a person experiencing homelessness, I wonder what contribution, talent or skill that the world is missing out on.”
Leticia Colchado, West Covina, CA

“Because we never know what tomorrow brings us.”
Nazaret Ramirez, Los Angeles, CA

Advocating for Homeless Funding

A beggar in the streets of Madrid, holding a cup for donation from passers-by.As the Board of Supervisors gave final approval to Los Angeles County’s $28.7-billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas advocated for ongoing funding to address the crisis of homelessness.

“I am pleased to see that funding for many of the Board’s priorities is reflected in this budget recommendation,” he said, citing $100 million set aside for the County’s Homeless Initiative programs.

“These resources are merely one-time in nature, however, so I am hopeful that we will be successful in our efforts to identify a sustainable funding source,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “I am concerned that if we do not identify a funding mechanism to address this in an ongoing manner, the crisis will worsen and have negative impacts on our budget because of the significant costs in the areas of health, public safety, and other areas.”

Noting 115,000 people are homeless in California – accounting for 21 percent of the nation’s homeless population – Supervisor Ridley-Thomas urged the public to sign a petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has also been urging state Legislators in Sacramento to let county voters impose a special half-percent tax on personal income above $1 million a year to fund programs for the homeless. According to a recent poll, 76 percent of likely voters would support such a ballot initiative, which would raise $243 million a year. The amount is about half of what the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said was needed annually to address the crisis.

Los Angeles County’s own homeless population is estimated at 47,000. The Board set aside $100 million to pay for subsizied housing, rapid rehousing, transitional housing for those exiting prison and other institutions, as well as many other services recommended by the Homeless Initiative. The amount is on top of money already being spent by various County departments to help the homeless.

“This balanced budget, while providing essential funding for services across the County, aggressively supports the Board’s agenda for transformative change in four key areas –homelessness, child protection, Sheriff’s Department reforms and the integration of our County health agencies,” said County CEO Sachi Hamai. “There are always competing demands for County dollars, and I believe this budget honors not only the Board’s longstanding commitment to fiscal responsibility but also to lifting the quality of life for all our residents.”

Aside from seeking to address the crisis of homelessness, the budget also advances the County’s commitment to protect vulnerable children, ensure constitutional policing in the jails, strengthen wage enforcement, and combat human trafficking.

Homelessness: A Statewide Crisis

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to send a letter to the California Assembly and Senate, asking them to pass a resolution urging the Governor to declare a state of emergency in California, due to the pervasive and deepening homelessness crisis.

In its request, the Board urged that the declaration include access to $500 million from the State Fund for Economic Uncertainties to implement statewide re-housing efforts, including street engagement, service triage, crisis housing, permanent housing navigation, rental subsidies and case management.

“The homelessness crisis endangers the health and safety of tens of thousands of residents, including veterans, women, children, LGBT youth, persons with disabilities and seniors, “    Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the Board meeting.

“The tremendous scale of homelessness in the County threatens the economic stability of the region by burdening emergency medical services and the social services infrastructure.”

The declaration also requests that state agencies and personnel immediately deploy to help provide housing assistance to homeless camp hotspots in Los Angeles County and other heavily affected areas.  The Board is also asking the state officials to identify and develop streams of ongoing funding for localities, so they can sustain successful efforts to combat homelessness.

On any given night in Los Angeles County, there are nearly 47,000 homeless people, including 6,000 parents and their children. Nearly two-thirds live in the City of Los Angeles.



Homeless Crisis One-on-One

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Emerging from the Governor’s Office after meeting with Governor Jerry Brown

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sat down with Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon.

“I am very encouraged by the frank discussions I had with our state’s leaders in conveying the seriousness of the homeless crisis in Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The Governor, Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem understand the County’s need to act quickly, and we are working with them as we seek funding to address the most compelling issue before us.”

The discussions focused on a request to permit the County to ask voters to consider a personal income tax on annual income in excess of $1 million. Such a ballot initiative, if approved, would generate $243 million a year, nearly half of the estimated funds needed in the battle against homelessness.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the California State Capitol

Los Angeles County Half-Percent Tax:
A Model for Right Action


Darrell Steinberg served as California State Senate President pro Tempore in 2008-2014

Los Angeles County has one of the largest homeless populations in the nation, made up of more than 46,000 men, women, children, veterans and the elderly, who live on the streets on any given night. Many of these people live with a serious mental illness and a majority of them also struggle with a substance use disorder. For reasons as varied as each individual, thousands of people live on the streets in makeshift tents and sleep under bridges, and the majority spend their days and nights in a constant search for a safe place in what is a highly volatile and unforgiving environment. This human tragedy must no longer be ignored.

In 2004, I co-authored Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. Our goal was to infuse California with funding to provide high-quality services and support to people who live with a mental illness. The initiative was approved by voters and currently places a 1 percent tax on individuals whose personal incomes exceed $1 million. This ongoing revenue source is currently bringing in $2 billion and I know it is making a profound, positive impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people and yet, it is not enough. Many continue to languish on the streets of every county in our state.

Given the immensity of the homeless population in Los Angeles, the County Board of Supervisors has put forward a proposal very similar to Proposition 63 that would create a half-percent tax on yearly income for millionaires residing only in Los Angeles County. If the Board is successful at getting the initiative on the November ballot, and the measure is approved by voters, it is estimated to generate about $250 million annually to fund the County’s plan to eradicate homelessness in Los Angeles altogether.

In order to levy a direct income tax on residents, the Board must first gain the approval of the California State Legislature and the Governor. Once that is achieved, the initiative will be placed on the ballot and voters in Los Angeles County will then have the opportunity to decide for themselves if eradicating homelessness is a priority for them.

I am in full support of this proposal and commend the legislators who are leading the charge on this issue. Common sense tells us that the first step toward improving the lives of those who live on the streets is to get them off it and into decent housing. Once that basic need is met, lives are changed for the better, hundreds of millions of dollars can be saved in public services annually, and Los Angeles, Sacramento, and other California cities and counties can be a model for right action and a beacon in our state and nation.

To view the article on the Huffington Post, click here.

Darrell Steinberg served as the California State Senate President pro Tempore and the leader of the majority party in the California State Senate from 2008 to 2014, until his retirement. He co-authored Proposition 63, approved by voters in 2004, which imposes a 1 percent tax on incomes exceeding $1 million to fund mental health services. Proposition 63 generates $2 billion annually to help people struggling with mental illness throughout California. He is a founder and Board Chair of the Steinberg Institute for Advancing Mental Health Policy, and the Director of Policy and Advocacy and a visiting professor for the UC Davis Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.