Board Declares Emergency and Places Homeless Initiative on Ballot

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors declared homelessness an emergency in Los Angeles County, and asked voters to approve a March 7 ballot measure aimed at financing desperately needed solutions.

It was one of the first acts of the newly reconstituted Board. It came in response to motions by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and after impassioned testimony from a capacity crowd in attendance at the Hall of Administration.

“All around us, we find human beings living in utter squalor – a shocking number of them families with children,” he said. “With this historic vote, we are taking a bold step towards ending this humanitarian crisis, the defining civic issue of our time.”

image11Voters will be asked to approve a ¼-cent sales tax that would raise about $355 million annually over a decade. “To put this funding in perspective, a ¼ cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television,” explained Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative.

If approved by 2/3 of voters, the ballot measure would fund rental assistance, subsidized healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and other services to help people get off – and stay off – the streets.

“The emergency declaration, which I co-authored with Supervisor Ridley Thomas, reinforces the County’s strong commitment to addressing – and solving – the homeless crisis in a compassionate way that will emphasize rehabilitation, mental health, alcohol/drug treatment and housing opportunities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

image6“This is the time to act to provide a dedicated revenue stream to begin to address the incredible crisis that we have with 47,000 people sleeping on our streets,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion for a March 7 ballot measure.

Both motions drew support from elected officials, as well as a coalition of 75 organizations representing advocates for the homeless; leaders of business, philanthropic, academic and faith-based communities; labor unions, environmentalists, and many others.

Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a video and letter to the Board, saying, “The ballot measure you plan to put before County voters in March will fund the supportive services that – combined with housing – will help get people off the streets permanently.” LA City Councilmen Jose Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Gil Cedillo also expressed support.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad added, “It’s very important that we provide the services that the homeless need, especially the 6,000 homeless children we have in Los Angeles County.”

coalition-of-75-2Alex Johnson of Children’s Defense Fund-California noted children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless are sick four times more often and four times more likely to show delayed development. “This measure would work to ensure all children have the care and stability they need to reach their full potential,” he said.

“The cost of not providing services is too high,” added Marsha Temple of Integrated Recovery Network. “The people experiencing homelessness who are severely disabled by mental incapacity are costing the county well over $1 billion a year.”

Gary Toebben of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said, “This is not just a social issue, this is also an economic issue. To provide proper care and housing to the homeless is to dramatically reduce the cost of other social services that we need in our community.”

LA County Firefighters Union Local 1014 President Dave Gilotte pledged solidarity with the Board, saying, “LA County finally made a decision today with these five great leaders to say we’re not going to walk past another homeless person and pretend like they don’t exist.”

In an emotional testimony, Reba Stevens, a formerly homeless person, urged the Board to move forward with the March 7 ballot measure. “I’m begging you, it’s what we must do,” she said.


CBS: Searching for solutions in America’s No. 1 state for homelessness

Homelessness is rising in California, in part because housing costs and rents have skyrocketed. Nearly 120,000 people are now homeless in the state. Sixty-six percent of them live on the street, the highest rate of people without shelter in the country.

“You cannot convince me on any day of the week that this is the way that people should have to live,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor.

Tents now line streets all over Los Angeles, so Ridley-Thomas wants Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency, using funds for natural disasters, to address homelessness.

[From Read more here.]

From Homeless to Home

Los Angeles County’s public housing program recently leased its first family unit through its initiative for homeless families. Crystal Beacham has been one of Los Angeles County’s 47,000 homeless residents since 2015. A single mother of two young boys, she found herself living at a shelter operated by the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Due to funding constraints, the shelter closed in September 2016 leaving Beacham with few available housing options for her family. While at the shelter, Beacham learned about the County’s Public Housing Program and its initiative for homeless families.

On September 16, Beacham and her two boys received a referral for permanent housing at the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles’ (HACoLA) South Scattered Sites. Through the collaborative efforts of HACoLA and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), Beacham was leased into a two-bedroom public housing unit on October 24, 2016.

“We need to put homeless families first,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been a leader in the fight against homelessness having helped build over 2,000 affordable housing units in the Second District since 2009.

HACoLA has historically given priority to homeless families, Veterans, and victims of domestic violence seeking placement in public housing. On July 1, 2016, HACoLA’s Public Housing Program implemented a new initiative as an additional means of addressing the area’s homeless crisis. As South Scattered Sites Public Housing units become available, they are now offered to a homeless family first.

“HACoLA prides itself in being forward thinking, and using all available resources to ensure that families, like Beacham’s, have a safe and suitable home,” Sean Rogan, HACoLA Executive Director said.

WLCAC Case Worker Nicole Floyd describes Beacham as a person who does not let hard times put her down. Floyd says Beacham would cheer up other women in the shelter by doing their hair. Floyd will provide two years of continued case management services to Beacham, to ensure she thrives in her new permanent living environment.  Through the Public Housing Program’s homeless initiative, HACoLA continues its mission of “Building Better Lives and Better Neighborhoods.”

“It took a village of resources, to provide a stable living environment to the Beacham family, and HACoLA is proud to have been part of that effort,” says Floyd.

“I plan to cook a Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy it with my kids,” Beacham said.

Feeding Families for the Holidays

For the eighth consecutive year, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas partnered with Golden State Water Company to deliver 200 turkeys to families in need.

“We all deserve a hearty meal and a joyful celebration for the holidays,” said the Supervisor.

Since 1990, Golden State has been donating turkeys to disadvantaged families for the Thanksgiving holiday through a program called “Operation Gobble.” Operation Gobble is a non-denominational and non-partisan undertaking in which the company partners with local elected officials who help direct the donations to community food banks, churches and other non-profit organizations. Throughout November, Golden State delivered more than 10,000 turkeys to families through various organizations and charities in California

The turkeys were delivered to over twenty community organizations who will in turn feed families in need for the holiday. This year Florence Firestone Senior Center, Lennox Senior Center, Asian Senior Center, East Rancho Senior Center, Roosevelt Senior Center, Lynwood Senior Center, Willowbrook Senior Center, Yvonne Burke Senior Center, and L.A. Academy Middle School were among the participating organizations.

“Thanksgiving is a special time for families,” said David Craven a resident of South Los Angeles.

U.S. Senator, Supervisor Visit Skid Row


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein visit Skid Row

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on a tour of Skid Row, img_3037epicenter of the crisis of homelessness gripping Los Angeles County and the rest of California.

“Homelessness is the defining civic issue in the County of Los Angeles and the State of California,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is also a civil rights issue and a human rights issue.”

“Mere steps away from dozens of cranes looming above the gleaming towers of downtown LA, we find human beings living in utter squalor, subjected to unspeakable living situations,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This uneasy juxtaposition is visible in every corner of the County. Instead of averting our eyes from this crisis, we must act now to address it and overcome it.”

Senator Feinstein said, “Mark and I saw firsthand the depth and breadth of the Los Angeles homeless crisis. I will do everything I can to help — particularly in the area of women with children.”

First, the Senator and Supervisor visited the headquarters of the County’s Housing for Health program, which provides permanent supportive housing, recuperative care and specialized primary care to homeless people with complex physical and behavioral health conditions.


At the C3 Hub

Afterwards, they proceeded to the C3 Hub – a collaboration among the County, City and Community – where nurses, substance use counselors, mental health clinicians, outreach workers and formerly homeless people assemble into teams, then take to the streets to help the unsheltered on Skid Row find housing.

img_3032-1Finally, they visited the Downtown Women’s Center, where they were joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti and First Lady Amy Wakeland.

During a tour of the facility, they listened to stories of how its formerly homeless tenants were able to turn their lives around once provided with permanent supportive housing, mental health treatments and other services that helped them land a job.


A DWC resident becomes emotional while speaking with Senator Feinstein

An estimated 115,000 people are homeless throughout California — enough to fill every seat at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Staples Center, combined. They account for more than 20 percent of the homeless population in the U.S.

Los Angeles County has 47,000 homeless people, 2,000 of whom live in Skid Row, which spans less a square mile in downtown LA, east of Main Street, south of Third Street, west of Alameda Street and north of Seventh Street.


Addressing residents at the Downtown Women’s Center