Coming Together to Fight Homelessness

MRT Mayor Homeless Summit

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
at the Mayors’ Regional Summit to Combat Homelessness

I’d like to thank Phil Ansell and his hard-working Homeless Initiative team – Leslie Blacher, Ashlee Oh, Leticia Colchado, Michael Castillo and Jerry Ramirez.

Today is a signal day  –  we, who govern the various jurisdictions in the County, have come together to learn more about how we can work together to address this crisis called homelessness.

We are facing a moral crisis. And a moral crisis demands a moral solution.

Instead of averting our eyes from this crisis, we must act intentionally to address it and to overcome it.

It will take all of us – public sector, private sector, communities, County and cities – working together to solve this crisis.

Solving homelessness will require a regional approach, a collaborative approach – not one city, not five cities – but all 88 cities working together with the County towards a common vision.

The County has set aside $100M in new funding – I repeat, one-time funding – to implement this vision.

We are going to need more than one-time funding to fully implement the vision. We are going to need additional ongoing, annual funds.

That’s why the County is currently conducting polling to find out if a November ballot initiative might be prudent.

We will depend on your support to fully implement the County’s homeless plan and to secure ongoing revenue. In the words of Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

Thank you and I look forward to working with you.


Exploring Funding to Address Homeless Crisis

homeless4 (1)

The Board of Supervisors called for exploring options for ongoing revenue dedicated to addressing Los Angeles County’s crisis of homeless.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in a motion co-authored with Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said the “best budget projections make it very clear that current County resources are not sufficient to fund initiatives and services to combat homelessness on an ongoing basis, and therefore there is a compelling need to pursue new and sustained revenue.”

Acting on their motion, the Board directed the County’s chief executive officer (CEO) to examine the potential for new revenue streams, including those that might require voter approval. It suggested a Mental Health Services Act-like proposal, among other options, and called for polling and research to determine likelihood of passage.

In February, the Board adopted a Homeless Initiative strategy to reduce the numbers of men, women and children living on the streets or in temporary shelters, currently estimated at 44,000 on any given night. The CEO is recommending $100 million in new, one-time funding for those strategies.

“While this is a significant investment through FY 2016-17, this funding will not sustain the recommended strategies beyond June 2017,” Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich noted in their motion. “With dedicated ongoing annual funding, these strategies – coupled with complementary action by cities throughout the County – can have a very significant impact on the number of homeless families and individuals.”

Several advocates for the homeless testified in support of the motion, including Jovenes Inc. development director Eric Hubbard. “You have made a down payment,” he told the Board. “I ask that you continue to fund these solutions, and investigate and explore all options to end the homeless crisis.”


A Place for the Homeless to Heal

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas declared, “No more patient dumping!” as he celebrated the grand opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center, a place for homeless patients to recover from illness or injury after being discharged from a hospital.

The latest addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus will provide all the basic necessities, including interim housing, meals, transportation and various health services to homeless patients over an average period of four to six weeks. It will also connect them to other services – from life skills classes to mental health counseling to substance abuse treatments – intended to help them achieve stability and transition into permanent supportive housing.

The 100-bed Recuperative Care Center will take in 600 homeless patients a year, reducing the costly overutilization of public hospitals, jails and first responders.

James Tyiska

James Tyiska

“These homeless patients have multiple chronic illnesses and psychiatric impairments and would ordinarily have lingered in a hospital because they had nowhere else to go,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“The Recuperative Care Center ensures that these medically-fragile persons receive the right level of TLC so they can recover and move on to more appropriate housing,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “A path to recovery – that’s why we’re here.”

James Tyiska is among the first to benefit from the Recuperative Care Center, which began serving patients January 19. “This place more than helped me, it lifted me up,” he said before the ribbon cutting ceremony. “A change is going to come, I see it.”

In his invocation, the Reverend Dr. Norman Johnson, Sr. of the First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church said the Recuperative Care Center will live up to the legacy of its namesake. “We are witnessing a new day, a better day… and hoping the healing that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents will continue,” he said.


Operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), in partnership with JWCH Institute Inc., the Recuperative Care Center is located in the sprawling MLK Medical Campus, which also has the MLK Community Hospital, MLK Outpatient Center, MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center, and Center for Public Health.

The Recuperative Care Center is the second facility of its kind in the Second District, and boosts the number of recuperative care beds for homeless patients from 63 to 163 countywide. Referrals can come from all County hospitals and clinics.

DHS Director Mitch Katz said the Recuperative Care Center will restore not only the health but also the dignity of the homeless. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has said the County’s crisis of homelessness is the “defining civil rights issue of our time,” and has been instrumental in helping provide coordinated outreach, affordable housing and supportive services to the estimated 44,000 people homeless on any given night in the County.


Hilton Philanthropy Honored

Steve Hilton (1)Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas lauded Supervisor Sheila Kuehl for recognizing Steven M. Hilton for his philanthropy as leader of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.


“Thank you, Supervisor Kuehl, for allowing me to join you in recognizing Steve Hilton today. On behalf of the Second District, I would like to add my gratitude to Steve Hilton.

“The Second District has been fortunate to partner with the Hilton Foundation on several occasions over the last few years.

“Back in 2012, my office provided the seed money for the County’s Department of Health (DHS) Services Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool that triggered the Hilton matching dollars for the initial investment.

“Hilton’s bold investment, coupled with Second District discretionary funds, laid the foundation for the DHS’ Housing for Health Division.

“Los Angeles County now provides $5 million a year towards the Flexible Housing Subsidy, and the DHS Housing for Health Division has housed 1,300 people.

“Steve has also been an early supporter of the Pay for Success pilot initiative that the County is finally preparing to launch.

“Pay for Success targets about-to-be-released inmates at risk of homelessness, and shows that we can dramatically reduce rates of recidivism by providing targeted supportive services. This type of innovative approach laid the foundation of our County’s broader diversion initiative.

“Even though he is stepping down as President and CEO, he will remain as Chairman of the Foundation.

“If we are to make a dent, it will take all of us – public, private and community – working together. The good news is that we can count on the Hilton Foundation to do that.

“Steve, I am grateful for your steadfast, inspiring and innovative leadership, and I wish you Godspeed as you travel around the world and embark on this new journey. I hear you are writing a book that describes your experiences in philanthropy – I look forward to reading it.”


Preparing for El Niño

As the sun grilled officials on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged residents to use the opportunity to prepare for upcoming storms.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was joined by Assessor Jeffrey Prang, Fire Chief Daryl Osby, Insurance Commissioners, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Department of Public Works to outline services being provided by the county to help residents prepare for the storm system known as El Niño.

“We are asking our citizens to partner with us to insure they are properly trained and prepared for a potential disaster or flood or the impact of El Nino,” Fire Chief Osby said.

Eric Bauman, a commissioner serving on the Los Angeles County Insurance Commission provided residents with ten tips for preparing for adequate flood insurance.

“This year with the onset of El Niño we thought it was very important that consumers knew how to prepare and how to understand what their insurance does and doesn’t provide them in terms of protection in the event they have damage from El Niño,” said Bauman.

According to the National Flood Insurance program, just two inches of flood water in a home can cost an average of $12,000 to clean as the water subsides.

The preparation by the county included its recent activation of its Emergency Operations Center to support County and local jurisdictions, agencies and community organizations preparing for and responding to the winter’s storms wrought by El Niño.

The County has also opened additional winter shelters, including one with 207 beds at Athens Park on 12603 S. Broadway in Los Angeles, and 100 beds in Del Aire at 12601 S. Isis Avenue in Hawthorne. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s deputies and other workers have been deployed to warn those staying in homeless encampments along riverbanks about heightened flood risks, while firefighters and other emergency personnel have evacuated some homes near burn areas because of landslide danger.

“This is part of a comprehensive county plan to combat homelessness, to rescue those individuals who are currently defined by such circumstances, and to move preventively to cause others not to fall into such tragic circumstances,” the Supervisor said.

Los Angeles County residents and businesses, including persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, may call 211 LA County for emergency preparedness information, and other referral services. They can also click on to sign up for emergency notifications, download survival guides, report hazards, and even learn how to apply for disaster loans.

  Get Prepared Now

Photo Credit: LA County FIre Department