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.”

New Affordable Apartments To Enhance Communities

Rendering of Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project, courtesy of AMCAL.

Los Angeles County has received a $30 million state grant to help build about 320 new affordable apartments in unincorporated areas, as well as a $10 million state grant to fund road improvements that will connect those new housing developments to mass transit and nearby community amenities.

A combined $20 million of the state grant to build affordable apartments was allocated to AMCAL’s Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project and LINC Housing’s Willowbrook II, both conveniently located near Metro train stations and parks in the Second District.

“These projects are a great example of public-private partnerships that seamlessly integrate high-quality affordable apartments with transportation and recreational amenities,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

Located adjacent to the Florence Blue Line Station, AMCAL’s Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project will have 109 affordable apartments, half of them for individuals and families at risk of homelessness.

It will also include a County-operated workforce development center on the first floor. An enhanced walking path will connect the project to the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.

LINC Housing’s Willowbrook II will include 100 affordable apartments and a daycare center. Located across the street from the Rosa Parks Blue and Green Line stations, the project will also feature upgrades to bicycle routes and improvements to nearby Mona Park.

“As numerous studies have shown, integrating housing and health care leads to better health outcomes, greater housing stability, and a significant reduction in the use of County resources,” LINC Housing’s chief operating officer, Suny Lay Chang, said. “We are extremely grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their continued and sustained support in addressing the housing shortage in Los Angeles County, particularly for our most vulnerable populations.”

Rendering of Willowbrook II courtesy of LINC Housing.

 

Home Ownership Made Affordable

Magnolia Walk Ribbon Cutting 2018. Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg / For the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated the grand opening of model homes for Magnolia Walk, an affordable homeownership project in Willowbrook that is slated to welcome its first residents in October.

Kitchen at Magnolia Walk. Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg / For the Board of Supervisors.

Developed by The Olsen Company, Magnolia Walk will include 94 detached single-family homes, 30 of which are reserved for low- to moderate-income homebuyers who will receive down payment assistance from the Community Development Commission / Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA).

“There are few things more empowering and gratifying than the opportunity to own your home at a price that you can afford,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Magnolia Walk Ribbon Cutting 2018. Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg / For the Board of Supervisors.

“We have committed $6 million to this development to ensure that 30 of the units can be sold to low- and moderate-income families,” he added. “That means that some of these homes will sell for as low as $80,000 – I’d say that’s a pretty good deal!”

CDC/HACoLA Executive Director Monique King-Viehland said, “The land we’re on was once vacant and undeveloped. Today, we celebrate the completion of the model units and soon, the completion of the first two phases. With our County continuing to address the local housing shortage, it is great to recognize those achieving the dream of homeownership.”

“Together, we intend to build Magnolia Walk as another shining example of what can be done when a public entity works hand-in-hand with a focused, private company to bring a dream to fruition” said Scott Laurie, President and CEO of The Olson Company.

Backyard at Magnolia Walk. Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg / For the Board of Supervisors.

Prices for the affordable homes will start at $80,000 while the market-rate homes will start at about $400,000. The project will offer two-story homes with 1,382 to 2,004 square feet of living space, each with a private rear yard and a two-car enclosed garage with traditional driveways. Each home will feature three to four bedrooms, two to three bathrooms, wall and attic insulation, “Cool Roof” rated tiles, a whole house ventilation cooling system, energy-efficient HVAC equipment, and hot water heaters. All homes are expected to be constructed by the end of 2019.

The architectural style of the homes is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. The development is designed to be a walkable community with an outdoor common area and direct access to Enterprise Park.

For more information on Magnolia Walk, visit www.magnoliawalkhomes.com.