Building on the Success of Metro’s Homeless Outreach Teams

A member of Metro’s Homeless Outreach Teams at work. All photos by Henry Salazar/ Board of Supervisors

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board voted unanimously to consider building on the success of a pilot program that deployed two outreach teams along the Red Line to help homeless individuals aboard buses and trains, and in and around transit stations, obtain housing and other services.

Coauthored by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Duarte Mayor John Fasana and Councilman Mike Bonin, the motion directed Metro’s chief executive to submit recommendations for extending the Pilot Multidisciplinary Homeless Outreach Program on an ongoing basis, including potential expansion of the program to other lines and stations with a large homeless population.

“It’s critical that we don’t lose momentum,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “These teams were initially funded on a pilot basis and now that they have demonstrated their worth, we need to assure that the service will be ongoing.”

“There are clear opportunities to provide similar intensive services in other areas – notably on the Gold, Blue and Green Lines – and the funding requirements and logistical implications of this should be assessed in short order,” he added. “We know that deploying homeless outreach through multidisciplinary teams is the most successful way of getting individuals housed and into services. As an added benefit, this type of intervention also improves the atmosphere for our passengers.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas proposed a pilot program with two outreach teams in October 2016. Each team, composed of a nurse, a substance abuse counselor, a mental health clinician, an outreach worker, and a formerly homeless individual, began offering assistance on the Red Line in May 2017.

Over the last 10 months, they have engaged 1,539 individuals, and linked 208 of them to interim housing resources. Another 237 individuals have been linked to permanent housing resources, and 19 have been permanently housed.

“Metro is an important partner in the effort to end the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Metro’s homeless outreach teams have proven highly effective for ridership, homeless and otherwise. Now, it’s time to scale up and build on the growing movement we call Everyone In.”

Metro CEO Phil Washingon and Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas with members of Metro’s Homeless Outreach Teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone In!

Hundreds of people – including Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA Rams Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, NBC’s “This is Us” actor Jon Huertas, and United Way’s Elise Buik – gathered at Echo Park Lake to announce the launch of Everyone In, a powerful and diverse coalition of people fighting for the common goal of ending homelessness across Los Angeles County.

Powered by United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Everyone In will bring together leaders and voices within Los Angeles County philanthropy, business, labor, faith and community organizations to keep solutions to homelessness moving forward.

Specifically, Everyone In will:

LAHSA Street Outreach Team members go out into communities every day to help people living on the streets obtain housing and a wide range of supportive services.

  • Create ways for the public to get involved. Everyone In will offer opportunities to learn more about the work that is happening across the county, volunteer, and train and organize people to advocate for approving supportive housing and other needed services in their own neighborhoods;
  • Track, measure, and share progress. Everyone In will monitor Measure H and Proposition HHH funded programs and share both progress and challenges. This will include the goal of ending homelessness for 45,000, preventing homelessness for 30,000 and approving 5,000 units of supportive housing for our most vulnerable by July 1, 2022;
  • Lift up successes and celebrate wins. Everyone In will celebrate progress and work to maintain the momentum and urgency it will take to finally end homelessness.
“Together, we have a real opportunity to get our homeless neighbors off the streets, out of shelters, and into stable homes for good,” said Elise Buik, President & CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “What stops us now won’t be a lack of homes, but a lack of understanding of the issues and solutions. It’s time to bring people together and form the public and private partnerships we need to get the job done. Everyone In is well positioned to do just that.” 

Everyone In pledges to track and measure progress so that the Measure H and Proposition HHH-funded programs remain on the path to success in the next decade. It is partnering with Los Angeles County and various city agencies to model and project progress in ways that will provide the public with a clearer picture of whether efforts are succeeding or falling short. 

Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

“A year ago, Los Angeles voters dug deep into their hearts and wallets to pass both Measure H and Proposition HHH, giving us unprecedented resources to tackle homelessness,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Today, we are building on that momentum and issuing a call to action. We need all hands on deck – Everyone In – because we all have a part to play, as well as a moral imperative, to confront this humanitarian crisis.”

The recent call on L.A. City Council members to each recommend approval of at least 222 new supportive housing units in their districts within the next three years is an early example of the type of role Everyone In will play. United Way campaign set the benchmark and partnered with City Council President Herb Wesson, as well as other city council members, to supportive the initiative.

“There is only one way to end the homelessness crisis — together,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Everyone In is about opening our hearts to Angelenos in desperate need, our minds to innovative strategies to get people off the street, and our neighborhoods to supportive housing that will keep people healthy, safe, and in a home for good.”

The EveryoneInLA.org website offers tips on how you can help the homeless, even if you have only two minutes.

The Everyone In launch included a rally with more than 500 supporters in Echo Park Lake, and debuted a new art installation: an oversized, 14-foot tall open door that depicts the cycles of homelessness and symbolizes the invitation for everyone to get involved in the solution. Created by local artist Rob Reynolds, the installation will tour throughout L.A. County in the coming months.

In the coming months, Everyone In will be connecting L.A.’s leaders in business, sports, arts, entertainment, and community to build a network of influential voices who are taking action to be part of the solution to end homelessness. A recent survey commissioned by United Way found that 69 percent of respondents countywide said they would back supportive housing in their own neighborhoods, and 56 percent said they favored solutions that addressed the root causes of homelessness, even if it takes a longer time. Everyone In seeks to engage and activate that silent majority.

“There’s a quote from the Buddha that a single candle can light a thousand others without diminishing itself,” said Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell. “The launch of the Everyone In campaign will be a critical next step in continuing to grow the number of candles that are lit, and to increase the intensity of those burning candles as we work together to bring our homeless neighbors home.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, with Mayor Eric Garcetti and United Way’s Elise Buik gathered with a massive crowd to launch Everyone In. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

We Need Everyone In
to Get Everyone Into Homes

 

Op-Ed

By Elise Buik, President & CEO, United Way Of Greater Los Angeles

and Mark Ridley-Thomas, Supervisor, Los Angeles County, 2nd District

 

Early last year, a woman named Julie Crane, only in her 50s, died alone in her car. Born to talented chemists, the university graduate once had a career with Princess Cruises before falling into homelessness. They say she died of natural causes.

There is nothing natural about dying alone in a car. There is nothing natural about living in a County where nearly 58,000 people lack the stability of a safe place to sleep.

Los Angeles County has changed dramatically in recent years. Thanks to Measure M, we’re building the infrastructure of the future with an $860 million annual investment in transportation for our growing population. We’re home to two NFL teams, building world-class stadiums, and are set to host the world during the 2028 Olympics.

But despite many incredible changes for the better, we’re still not effectively tackling our homelessness crisis. Encampments are no longer reserved to Skid Row, they’re present in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County because, unfortunately, it’s an issue that we have overlooked and underinvested in for decades. That all changed November 2016 and March 2017 when voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition HHH and Measure H, which will generate $5 billion over ten years to build housing, fund services and, for the first time, allow us to also focus on prevention.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Measure H. Recognizing the urgency, the county advanced funding back in July, prior to the tax going into effect, in order to get work started quickly. Since then, we have quadrupled the number of homeless outreach teams, added 600 shelter beds, and provided subsidies or bridge housing to keep over 1,000 people housed.

In order to address our most vulnerable homeless population, we’re also prioritizing supportive housing, a proven and cost-effective solution. A USC study showed that costs to provide supportive housing for our homeless neighbors are 43% lower than the costs associated with a person living on the streets or in emergency shelters. The study also found that supportive housing is more effective than other solutions because once individuals are housed, access to services— including mental health treatment, medical care, and job training — helped them to stay housed with a 90% retention rate. What’s more, RAND Corporation’s 2017 evaluation of Los Angeles County’s Housing for Health program, which provides supportive housing with intensive services to people with complex medical and behavioral health issues who are also experiencing homelessness, found that for every $1 invested in the housing and services program, the County saved $1.20 in health care and social service costs.

The good news is the story you might not know: over the past 10 years, we have quietly built the infrastructure needed to support the major impact we need to take everyone off the streets. We’re not starting from scratch with this multi-billion-dollar investment. We’re building on the success of hundreds of supportive housing buildings that are already peacefully coexisting in neighborhoods countywide.

The other infrastructure we have built is alignment in our community. The City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles are working in tandem to thoughtfully integrate housing and services. Philanthropy, Labor, Business, the faith-based community, elected officials, community-based developers, and providers are all aligned and in this for the long term.

But government and philanthropy can’t do this alone. The voters have spoken in approving these dollars; now we need residents to play an active role in supporting solutions in their neighborhoods. And the good news is they want to. In a recent poll, close to 70% of county residents support building supportive housing in their neighborhoods and a majority believe we should focus our investments on long-term permanent solutions versus short-term fixes.

It will take all of us to make progress and that’s why we are launching a community engagement campaign entitled Everyone In. This campaign will allow individuals to learn more about the people who are experiencing homelessness in their community, to be informed on supportive housing, to attend community events and tours, to volunteer, and to take an active role in supporting solutions that work. The campaign will also feature public dashboards to monitor progress and results throughout the 88 cities countywide.

A community should be judged by how its most vulnerable population—in our case, our homeless neighbors—are treated. Homelessness is not an easy problem to solve. It will take deeply committed partnerships, persistence, and innovation to make a serious dent in homelessness. The good news is we know what works and voters across the county have agreed to fund those solutions — but funding alone is not enough. Let L.A.’s legacy not just be our transportation systems or Olympic bid, but how we, as a community, finally got everyone in.

 

Addressing Homelessness with Compassionate and Innovative Strategies

In a county as prosperous as Los Angeles, and a state as wealthy as California, homelessness is a moral crisis – a moral crisis that will define our civic legacy in the eyes of future generations.

Almost a year ago today, on March 7, 2017, the County of Los Angeles celebrated the historic passage of Measure H. The voters of this County dug deep into their hearts and their wallets, and decided to tax themselves in order to help their fellow brothers and sisters who did not have homes.

Many of you recognize the sustained effort it took to achieve that landmark collective victory in March 2017 – during an off-cycle election. Not since 1902 had there even been an attempt to place a revenue enhancement measure on the March ballot – that’s how bold the idea was! So how did we get here?

As you approach downtown, the skyline provides a stark illustration of the income and wealth gap in our region. Mere steps away from dozens of cranes looming above the gleaming towers of downtown, we find human beings living in utter squalor, subjected to unspeakable living situations. This jarring juxtaposition is visible in every corner of the County.

But a crisis can also be a turning point.

National Alliance to End Homelessness. All photos by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

In May 2015, when the Homeless Point-In-Time Count showed an uptick and, in particular, an uptick in street encampments, I knew that the status quo had to be changed radically.

In August 2015, the Board of Supervisors and LA County officially declared homelessness to be one of its top priorities. LA County then established the Homeless Initiative, and embarked on a series of 18 policy summits and public hearings.

In February 2016, this process culminated in a comprehensive action plan, crafted in partnership with community stakeholders. The County devoted $100M in one-time funds to implement the community action plan – but I strongly felt that we had a pact with the community to find ongoing funds to implement the strategies in the years to come.

The time was right because poll after poll showed that homelessness trumped every other issue – it was more top of mind than traffic, than public safety, than education.

The County explored a variety of revenue options – Millionaire’s tax, General sales tax, Parcel tax, and Marijuana business tax. After a process of elimination, we landed on a quarter-cent special sales tax, and we called it Measure H.

Measure H passed resoundingly in March with 70% of the vote. Measure H will provide $355M a year for 10 years and allow us to scale up compassionate and innovative strategies.

In June 2017, the Board of Supervisors endorsed the consensus recommendations of the 50-member committee of stakeholders. The 5-member Citizens’ Oversight Board, which will monitor Measure H expenditures, met twice in 2017 and will meet again on March 8, 2018. Their task is accountability.

We only started to collect the tax on October 1, 2017, but, as you can see, the County was already hard at work. Measure H is expanding funding for Multi-Disciplinary Teams that consist of nurses, mental health clinicians, substance use counselors, and people with lived experience.

These street engagement teams are working together to canvass LA County’s 4,000 square miles, provide daily engagement and access to County services and housing.

From July to December 2017, these street teams have linked almost 3,000 people to essential services.

In addition:

  • 441 have agreed to come indoors to crisis/bridge housing;
  • Almost 400 are in the housing search process; and
  • Almost 100 have moved into supportive housing.

Along with the expansion of street teams, we are ramping up our supply of 24/7 enhanced interim housing options. We are funding more recuperative care beds, substance use detox beds, and alternatives to incarceration. Finally, we are creating more affordable permanent housing options for those exiting from interim housing.

This quarter, the County will approve capital funding for over 1,300 units of affordable and special needs housing. And we are working on ordinances to streamline and accelerate the development of more affordable and supportive housing.

We are coupling new housing with Measure H-funded support services.

In August 2017, the County partnered with the 17 Housing Authorities in our region to craft joint commitments to set aside tenant-based housing vouchers matched with intensive services. In December, we signed a Joint MOU with the City of LA to commit Measure H-funded supportive services for the 10,000 supportive housing units being built through the LA City bond measure, Proposition HHH.

From July to December 2017, almost 1,300 tenants of new supportive housing have been linked to intensive services. We are not only building housing, we are rebuilding lives!

The County is funding financial incentives for landlords to encourage homeowners to rent their units to homeless people. It is also expediting the construction and rehabilitation of second dwelling units in people’s backyards, and helping homeowners rent those units to homeless people. These are just some of many tools in the County’s Measure H toolbox to activate true partnerships with private stakeholders.

The hard task of implementation is underway, with the nonprofits recruiting, hiring and training over 1,000 positions to expand services and “right-size” our regional system.

As we sit here today, there are approximately 58,000 men, women and children who will struggle to find a place tonight. Two-thirds of our homeless neighbors are “unsheltered” – sleeping at night in cars, tents, makeshift shelters and other places not meant for human habitation.

At this conference, you will hear about some of the challenges but, more importantly, you will hear about some of the solutions. We believe that this crisis can be resolved but it will take all of us working together.

As we move through implementation of Measure H, we have to keep our public, and each other, engaged and informed. This is why on March 9th, United Way will launch Everyone In.

Over the next 10 years, the Everyone In campaign will engage people across Los Angeles County to join together in creating better lives for all who are experiencing homelessness. Our collective pursuit should be to create opportunities so that anyone who calls LA County home is able to live a life of dignity and purpose.

Our homeless neighbors are depending on us – so let’s get to work. I’m in! Are you in? Everyone In!

Counting the Homeless
to Better Deliver Services

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas talks to man living in a homeless encampment in North Hollywood during the first night of the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

More than 8,000 volunteers spread out across 4,000 square miles on three winter nights to conduct the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Homeless Count press conference. L-R: Councilwoman Nury Martinez, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors

The data from the federally mandated census will offer a comprehensive look at the state of homelessness in Los Angeles County on any given night, including geographic distribution and trends among various populations. It will be released to the public in May.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas counted in North Hollywood on the first night, Carson on the second night, and Leimert Park on the third night.

“The Count will help us identify where resources are most needed and measure progress as nonprofits ramp up their services to a level never seen before, thanks to Measure H,” he said, referring to the 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters on March 2017 to generate about $355 million annually to end and prevent homelessness.

Homeless Count volunteers study a census map at the Juanita Millender McDonald Community Center in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

“Thanks to Measure H, LA County’s public and nonprofit partners are gearing up to house 45,000 men, women and children over the next five years, and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others,” added the Supervisor, who championed Measure H. “Each of us has a part to play in helping resolve this humanitarian crisis and this includes the essential work of the 8,000 volunteers who participate in the Homeless Count.”

“Every Angeleno counts, whether they have an address or not,”  Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a press conference to kick off the Count. “This year’s count takes on new importance because it will help us better target and deliver the permanent supportive housing, emergency shelter, and ongoing services that Angelenos made possible when they voted for Prop. HHH and Measure H.”

A volunteer interacts with a woman at a homeless encampment in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors

Proposition HHH, passed in November 2016, would finance the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically homeless over the next decade. It would also fund affordable housing, temporary shelters and other amenities needed by the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.

“In the face of one of the most fraught epidemics our city has faced, the Count is our opportunity to make a difference,” City Controller Ron Galperin said at the press conference. “Homelessness is experienced in every part of our city, and by children and adults; however, without a proper accounting of exactly where our most vulnerable are – including homeless veterans, teens or those escaping domestic violence – we may not be able to adequately help those in dire need. Please join me in making sure that everyone counts.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Homeless Count volunteers who had assembled at the Juanita Millender McDonald Community Center in Carson. Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Board of Supervisors.

“Good policy starts with having good information,” Councilwoman Nury Martinez added.  “The data from tonight’s count will go a long way toward determining where resources are most urgently needed and how they should be applied.”

“The results of the Count help us implement the best strategies to meet our homeless neighbors’ needs, together,” said Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, President and CEO, the nonprofit LA Family Housing.

The “street count” occurred in the San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita, as well as the San Gabriel Valley, on January 23. It moved to West LA, the South Bay and East Los Angeles on January 24, and in the Antelope Valley, South LA and Central LA on January 25.

In addition to the “street count,” a “shelter count” was also conducted, during which shelters and transitional housing programs counted the number of people in their programs. The Youth Count is a survey-based count during the last two weeks of January. The final component is one-on-one interviews with 6,000 people to capture demographic information.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Homeless Count volunteers assembled at Community Build in Leimert Park. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.