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.

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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


Countywide Strategy to Fund Permanent Housing

“The Board of Supervisors in a unanimous vote, sought to further its commitment to fight homelessness in Los Angeles County, by creating a countywide framework that will facilitate a coordinated strategy on construction of permanent housing, allocation of rent subsidies and provision of supportive services,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, author of the motion. “This approach will help to ensure the best possible outcome for the 88 cities we serve.”