Board Considers Ballot Options to Address Homeless Crisis

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stands with advocates for the homeless who testified in support of his motion.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and amendments from Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich, the Board of Supervisors called for drafting three potential November 2016 ballot measures asking voters to consider a parcel tax, a sales tax or a marijuana tax to pay for programs to address Los Angeles County’s crisis of homelessness.

The most recent poll commissioned by the County concluded more than 69 percent of likely November 2016 voters would support an annual 3 cent per square foot parcel tax to generate ongoing funding to address homelessness. Specifically, voters support a ballot measure that would provide prevention and emergency support services, including job training, rental subsidies, counseling, and treatments for mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction; as well as create permanent and temporary affordable housing for children, seniors, families, foster youth, veterans, the disabled and homeless adults, with citizen oversight and independent audits.

“The quest to end homelessness has become the defining moral, civil rights and social justice issue of our time,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “Now is the time for the Board to identify an ongoing funding stream to put before voters in November that can finance the strategies to meaningfully prevent and reduce the number of homeless in communities across the County.”

The electorate’s growing concern about homelessness has been highlighted in more than 10 polls conducted since March by conservative and progressive pollsters, academic and philanthropic institutions, think tanks and municipal governments. The same surveys also indicate the electorate’s unprecedented willingness to increase taxes – whether through a tax on high-income earners, a parcel tax, sales tax or marijuana tax – to generate ongoing revenue to address the crisis.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has calculated at least $450 million is needed annually to provide the County’s homeless population of 47,000 with supportive services, rental subsidies and other needs. Studies have confirmed that successfully housing the homeless and linking them with support services and employment save taxpayer dollars in avoidable health, law enforcement, property devaluation, and other costs.

“These are really scary times – every neighborhood has encampments of people living on sidewalks,” said Lisa Payne with the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing or SCANPH. “This calamity calls out for government action. We urge you to seize the opportunity to seize a parcel tax or other funding measure on the ballot.”

Ann Sewill with the California Community Foundation said various polls showed “an outpouring of support from voters” for going to the ballot to raise money to address the homeless crisis. Addressing the Board, she said, “The pragmatic idea is we should do what wins. The visionary idea is we should do what’s right. I think you have an opportunity before you with this motion to do both.”

Chris Ko with United Way of Greater L.A. said, “Inaction is unthinkable, especially when lives are on the line.”

The Board directed Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai to present the draft tax initiatives on July 12. The Board could then vote to adopt one or multiple ballot measures for placement on the November 8 ballot.


State, County and City Leaders Unite to Fight Homelessness

On a lot that has been blighted for decades and also the site of a homeless encampment where two people were set on fire last month, state, county and city leaders united to discuss the latest efforts to combat homelessness and the longstanding problem of blighted and vacant properties throughout Los Angeles which pose a threat to public safety.

“Preventing and eliminating homelessness is a top priority for the County and the City of Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It is solvable if we harness the energy of all sectors of society and we treat this issue like the humanitarian crisis that it is.”

“City, County, and State — our arms are locked together in an extraordinary partnership to take on this homelessness crisis,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Los Angeles has more people living, working, and studying here than ever before — but we cannot be satisfied with this progress when there are more than 21,000 people sleeping on our streets every night. We can and must do better.”

For some time, the undeveloped lot was home to several individuals who built an encampment with wooden structures and tents. However, just 48 hours prior to the news conference, the property owner cleared the site of the encampment and the homeless relocated to a nearby alley. Footage of the encampment can be viewed below:

“If you’ve got a vacant lot, you’ve got to be sure it’s a benefit to the community and not a blight to the community,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who also heads the council’s homeless committee.

A day earlier, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas traveled to Sacramento where the state Assembly, acting on a request from the County and the City, passed a resolution urging the governor to declare a statewide emergency due to homelessness.

“There are 115,000 reasons why the governor should make that declaration,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, referring to the state’s homeless population, the largest in the country. Los Angeles County leads the state with 47,000 homeless on any given night.

The County recently launched a petition drive asking residents to contact the governor and demand that he declare a state of emergency with more than 13,000 people responding so far.


Supervisor Hails Assembly Approval of HR 56 Urging Governor to Declare Statewide State of Emergency on Homelessness

Responding to a call by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the California Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide state of emergency on homelessness.

House Resolution 56, whose lead authors were Assembly Majority Whip Miguel Santiago and Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, won more than 50 votes. Fewer than a dozen legislators opposed it.

“The California Assembly now stands alongside the Board of Supervisors, as well as more than 13,000 people – and counting – who have signed a petition seeking a statewide emergency declaration from our Governor,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We must seize this momentum to act on homelessness, the defining civil rights issue of our time.”

Testifying at the state Capitol, Assemblymember Ting said, “Today we are saying we can no longer do this by ourselves, city to city. We as a state need to come together, work together, to find a solution.”

“Homelessness affects every community in California, and it should impact the conscience of every (Assembly) member and of every Californian,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said. “We didn’t get to this point in a matter of days, and we won’t resolve the problem in a matter of days either. This resolution, however, helps to instill a sense of urgency.”

Assemblymember and former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins said, “I believe very much in this resolution today, but I believe it is absolutely up to us to make it happen.” She added state lawmakers need political will “to figure out how we’re going to follow up on this resolution with action.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to ask both the California Assembly and Senate to seek a statewide emergency declaration from the governor. In the motion, co-authors Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl 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.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas traveled to Sacramento on behalf of the Board to witness the vote on HR 56 – his fifth visit to the state Capitol in as many weeks to rally support for addressing homelessness.

Assemblymember Philip Chiu, who chairs the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee, emphasized the severity of the crisis. “While California has only 12 percent of our country’s population, we have 20 percent of our country’s homeless,” he said.

“Skid Row in Los Angeles is now everywhere – in the north San Fernando Valley, the Antelope Valley, the south Los Angeles coastal areas, on the gateway cities going into Orange County, in the east County,” added Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. “HR 56 seems to me to be an appropriate way to goad the administration, to encourage the Governor’s continued focus on services with housing.”

Supervisor Backs Assembly Resolution Urging State of Emergency on Homelessness

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hailed a proposed California Assembly resolution urging Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on homelessness.

House Resolution 56, authored by Assembly Majority Whip Miguel Santiago and Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, is poised for a vote Thursday.

“I want to commend the state Assembly for answering our call to take the homelessness crisis right to the governor,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The time for action is now, and it’s time for leadership to prevail if we are to succeed in addressing the most compelling social issue confronting Californians.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, acting on a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, voted unanimously this month to ask both the state Assembly and Senate to seek an emergency declaration from the governor.

Assemblymembers Santiago and Ting responded with House Resolution 56, which states, “Homelessness has risen to historic levels throughout the state, and now is the time for state action.”

“California is too prosperous a state for so many to suffer from homelessness,” said Assemblymember Santiago, whose district includes Skid Row.  “We will not end their suffering until we think differently and commit to action, as an emergency requires.”

“We need a statewide solution to help people get into housing and services rather than have each city go it alone,” added Assemblymember Ting, who represents San Francisco.

On behalf of the Board, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will travel to Sacramento for the vote on H.R. 56 – his fifth visit to the state Capitol in as many weeks to rally support for addressing what he has called the “defining civil rights issue of our time.”

One out of every five homeless people in the US lives in California, and Los Angeles County alone accounts for 47,000 of the state’s homeless population of 115,000.

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