Right to Counsel Without Fees for Indigents

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Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover and Alternate Public Defender Bruce Brodie testifying in favor of eliminating the $50 registration fee. Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to revoke a prior County resolution that charged indigent defendants a $50 registration fee to obtain legal services from a public defender.

 “Charging a $50 registration fee to obtain a public defender undermines the constitutionally-protected right to an attorney,” said Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “This motion will ensure that economic status does not prevent an accused from receiving proper legal representation.”

Supervisor Kuehl added, “Imagine you’re an indigent defendant and the first thing your ‘free’ government lawyer does is hand you a form that requires you to pay $50 within five days!”

“We want to be sure that low-income defendants who are eligible for legal counsel from the Public Defender’s office can actually get the services of that legal counsel,” she said. “That is their constitutional right.” 

Assistant Public Defender Candis Glover said the Public Defender’s Office is in favor of doing away with the fee, which is usually discussed with the client for the first time during arraignment. “We believe that discussing registration fees with a client you just met, when you’re trying to gain that client’s trust, and you’re trying to identify legal issues connected with the case, are barriers to our representation,” she told the Board.

Los Angeles County has “requested” that defendants pay the registration fee since 1996, to offset the cost of providing court-appointed counsel. It is estimated that the Public Defender’s office will collect approximately $300,000 in such fees for this fiscal year. Defendants who don’t pay are referred to a private for-profit collections agency to recoup uncollected registration fees.

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Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Counsel and Human Rights Watch testifying in favor of the motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.

 

A Call to Action on Homelessness


Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a call to action after the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found Los Angeles County’s homeless population increased 23 percent over the past year to 57,794.

“We have business to do,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said at a press conference organized by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). “No hand-wringing, no fretting, no ‘woe is me’ – it’s just simply time to roll up our sleeves and do what we know needs to be done. You’ve got to be ready to fight to end homelessness in the County of Los Angeles.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas said voters’ passage of Measure H in March and Proposition HHH in November has “afforded us an opportunity to do what we have never ever had the opportunity to do in this region, and that is to step forward with our imagination, our compassion, our resources, and confront the issue of homelessness in the County of Los Angeles.”

“I am not at all discouraged by this (Homeless Count),” Chairman Ridley-Thomas added. “Many of us sensed that there was an uptick, and these numbers validate that. The good news is that we have the capacity, for the first time, to stand up to it.”

Measure H is a 1/4-cent sales tax expected to raise $355 million annually for services to the homeless countywide. It creates an unprecedented funding stream expected to move 45,000 homeless men, women and children into stable housing within the next five years, and provide them with the high-quality, multi-dimensional supportive services they need to succeed in the long run. It is also intended to prevent an estimated 30,000 people from becoming homeless in the first place. Proposition HHH, meanwhile, is a $1.2-billion bond measure estimated to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles.

“We have no excuse not to do our very best because we are now equipped,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said, adding the County’s Homeless Initiative is “digging in deep” and so are city governments, nonprofit service providers and others engaged in the fight against homelessness. “There’s an army out there, and we’re ready to do what we must do,” he said.

On June 13, the Board of Supervisors will hear the final report of a 50-member planning group convened to develop funding recommendations for the first three years of Measure H revenue, totaling about $1 billion. Implementing those recommendations will begin in earnest during the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Core strategies include:

  • Sending outreach and engagement teams to reach the homeless on every street corner;
  • Providing permanent housing with healthcare and other services;
  • Expanding rapid rehousing for the newly homeless;
  • Enhancing the emergency shelter system, including for those leavings jails and hospitals; and
  • Strengthening the network of community nonprofits already serving homeless single adults, families and youth.

“This planning effort has not been done in haste,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “It is a reflection of years of work, principally by the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles with the input of thousands of stakeholders, to develop plans to deal with homelessness in a collaborative way.”

Also in attendance at the press conference were Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Marqueece Harris Dawson and LAHSA Commissioner Wendy Greuel and Executive Director Peter Lynn.

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Measure H Funding Consensus

With Measure H about to pay dividends, a 50-member planning group reached consensus on funding and strategy recommendations to put before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors as it prepares to mount one of the nation’s largest initiatives to eradicate homelessness.

At the conclusion of the planning group’s final meeting, County Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell said, “Nothing short of a consensus-based stakeholder process of this nature would do justice to this historic moment in our effort to combat homelessness.”

Composed of County government staff, as well as formerly homeless individuals, technical experts, nonprofit service providers, and leaders of the faith, business and philanthropic communities, the planning group convened five meetings – all open to the public – to develop funding recommendations for the first three years of Measure H revenue, totaling about $1 billion.

It also endorsed 21 strategies, with an emphasis on ramping up resources for “core strategies,” which include:

  • augmented outreach and engagement to reach the homeless on every street corner
  • providing permanent housing with healthcare and other services
  • rapid rehousing for the newly homeless
  • enhancing the emergency shelter system, including for those exiting jails and hospitals
  • strengthening the network of community nonprofits already serving homeless single adults, families and youth

The recommendations will be presented to the Board on June 13.

Reba Stevens, a member of the planning group who spent 21 years living on the streets, said, “Now that we’re here and at the final stage, I’m truly, truly, hopeful. I’m excited because there are such opportunities and possibilities – they’re endless! I know that we’re going to do this, that we’re actually going to position ourselves to end homelessness.”

“It’s pretty inspiring,” added Janice Martin, another member of the planning group and an ecumenical liaison for Brothers and Sisters in Communications, which provides outreach to faith-based institutions. She added that while faith-based institutions are “already first responders” to the homeless by providing counseling and charitable services, they can be mobilized to take on an even greater role under the Homeless Initiative.

Beth Steckler, deputy director of the nonprofit Move LA, expressed appreciation for the diversity of the planning group’s members and the openness of its meetings. “I think it’s extraordinary for the County to run a transparent process to bring stakeholders together, and invite the public to come and participate,” she said. “I think it shows a great deal of political maturity.”

Measure H is a 1/4-cent County sales tax approved by nearly 70 percent of voters on March 7, and projected to raise about $355 million annually for 10 years. It is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within the next five years, and to prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending, and a Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Board will publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations. The County will continue to release quarterly progress reports in connection with the Homeless Initiative strategies. Finally, the nonprofits that implement the strategies will be held to specific outcomes and standards, tracked and monitored by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the County CEO and County Department of Health Services, and other relevant County departments.

Planning the Next Step with Measure H

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All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas brought together key stakeholders in the fight against homelessness to collaborate on a spending plan for Measure H, after a supermajority approved the ballot measure creating an unprecedented annual funding stream for programs to end and prevent homelessness in Los Angeles County.

“It is imperative that we draw on the expertise and experience of those on the frontlines in the fight against homelessness, as well as those who have lived it, to get the best bang for our buck with Measure H,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

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Acting on a Feb. 7 motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, County CEO Sachi Hamai and Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell convened a 50-member planning group that includes County government staff and technical experts, representatives of cities within the County, nonprofit service providers, leaders of the faith, business and philanthropic communities, and formerly homeless individuals.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending, and a Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Board will publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations. The County will continue to release quarterly progress reports in connection with the Homeless Initiative strategies. Finally, the nonprofits that implement the strategies will be held to specific outcomes and standards, tracked and monitored by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, the County CEO and County Department of Health Services, and other relevant County departments.

“The voters of Los Angeles County have clearly demonstrated their commitment to combating homelessness by approving Measure H,” County CEO Hamai said. “Today, we demonstrated our commitment to them by beginning a process that will ensure transparency and accountability in making sure every dollar is spent effectively and efficiently.”

“Los Angeles County voters have entrusted us with $355 million annually to fund supportive services for our homeless neighbors,” added Elise Buik, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which hosted the first planning group meeting at its headquarters. “Now, it’s our responsibility as a community to mobilize these resources effectively and efficiently – and that can only be done with a diverse coalition of community stakeholders: faith leaders, homeless service providers, community organizations and civic leaders.”

The planning group’s meetings on April 6, April 20 and May 10 are open to the public. Measure H is a 1/4-cent County sales tax that would generate approximately $355 million annually. This dedicated funding is expected to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within five years and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

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Teaming Up to Help the Homeless

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First to Serve Board Chairman Pastor John Cager; St. Joseph Center Board Chair Kevin McCardle with President and CEO Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum; Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas; and First to Serve Executive Director Rev. Richard Reed. All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Two nonprofit organizations with a wide range of resources and experience have teamed up to serve the homeless in South Los Angeles, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was on hand at the grand opening of their new facility, the Broadway Manchester Service Center.

FullSizeRender[1] (2)“Both First to Serve and St. Joseph Center were created in response to a spiritual calling to serve the less fortunate,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “By co-locating together and pooling their resources, they are signaling their aim to do even more, in a collective fashion.”

At the Broadway Manchester Service Center, First to Serve and St. Joseph Center will work in tandem to provide comprehensive case management, mental health services and integrated social service programs in South Los Angeles.

“We are excited to be a part of that collaboration, of that spiritual root that can help this community,” said First to Serve executive director Rev. Richard Reed, who founded the organization with the help of his mentor, the Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray.

Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president & CEO of St. Joseph Center, said it has been her goal to expand services to South Los Angeles. “There are already so many great things happening, great programs, services and agencies, but we really feel like we could also add to the mix and be a blessing.”

First To Serve  provides state-certified and licensed substance abuse and supportive housing facilities, as well as domestic violence housing for single women and women with children. It also participates annually in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority-supported Winter Shelter Program.

St. Joseph Center was founded in Los Angeles by two Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1976. Separately incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1987, it now serves more than 6,500 men, women and children annually, offering outreach and engagement, housing, mental health, and education and vocational programs at multiple sites on the Westside and South Los Angeles.

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