LA County Expands Safety Net for the Homeless

Beggar falling asleep on the street

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to widen Los Angeles County’s safety net for the homeless, deploying teams to help particularly vulnerable populations find permanent supportive housing.

“If we are to end homelessness, we must scale up our response to fit the overwhelming need,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

His motion, co-sponsored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, follows the recent release of the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which showed a 12 percent increase in homelessness countywide since 2013.

Under the plan approved Tuesday, the county would create seven multi-disciplinary integrated teams (MITs) of medical and mental health professionals to provide “street- and shelter-based intensive engagement and support” for homeless single adults with severe mental illness who may also have substance abuse issues.

Homeless single adults tend to be frequent users of the county’s public hospital emergency rooms, and often get tangled up in the criminal justice system.

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis called for identifying funding that could be used to add another team to Skid Row, and to proportionally augment staffing for MITs in South LA, the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley. A report is expected in 60 days.

“It is imperative that resources are targeted to the areas with the greatest geographic burden and need, as demonstrated by the latest homeless count,” Supervisor-Ridley Thomas said.

During the homeless count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and volunteers found 41,174 homeless people in Greater Los Angeles. When added to homeless counts in Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, Los Angeles County has an estimated 44,359 homeless people on any given night. About two-thirds of homeless persons were “unsheltered” and stayed in places not intended for human habitation, such as vehicles, parks, sidewalks and abandoned buildings.

The “Metro” Los Angeles area accounted for 27.7 percent of homeless single adults countywide, with a concentration in Skid Row.  Next in line were South LA, 16.2 percent; the South Bay, 12.1 percent; and the San Fernando Valley, 11.7 percent.

Homeless Count (1)

 

 

A New Way of Life for Former Inmates

Joseph Baddley, 53, became homeless after being in and out of prison. Not having access to medical care, when Baddley became sick, he hit rock bottom. But thanks to a new program to build more supportive housing in Los Angeles County, Baddley has found an apartment to call home. The 43 units, spread over five formerly blighted and foreclosed properties in South Los Angeles, were specifically created for those who were homeless, veterans in need of housing, former inmates re-entering the community, those living with special needs and those with mental health illnesses.

“Many people helped save my life,” said Baddley. “I love my home and I treat it as a gift,” said Baddley.

Recent ribbon cutting for the the Coalition for Responsible Community Development apartments.

The apartments represent the best of what government, the private sector and community organizations can accomplish when they work together. The project was sponsored by the Coalition for Responsible Community Development and involved a successful collaboration among Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles, Los Angeles Housing Department, California Housing Finance Agency and Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health among others. The project was completed in August 2013 at a total development cost of $10.5-million. Ten of the 43 units are specifically designed for the visually, physically or mobility impaired.

“CRCD Apartments, with its support from both the City and the County, is a example of permanent supportive housing that works,” said CRCD Executive Director Mark Wilson, noting that residents will be eligible to receive mental health services, regular health care and an array of social services supported with intensive case management.

Former inmate and resident Yolanda Brown. Photo courtesy of CRCD.

For women who have been incarcerated, the apartments offer an especially important place. Many women who are former inmates have trouble finding jobs and housing and end up on the street, where they are often in danger, explained Susan Burton, executive director of A New Way of Life, one of the organizations responsible for the successful re-entry efforts. A New Way of Life supports these residents by providing therapy and legal assistance at court hearings. Many women residents are mothers with children, Burton said. These mothers also receive job training services and assistance with child care.

Resident and former inmate Joseph Baddley tears up while welcoming Supervisor Ridley-Thomas into his new home.

At the recent grand opening of the apartments, Baddley invited a few guests into his home including A New Way of Life Executive Director Susan Burton and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“He invited us into his home, held back his tears best he could and told us his story,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is the face of reentry.”

Supporting affordable housing has been a focus for the Supervisor since taking office in 2008. Since 2009, the Supervisor has helped to create 1,100 units in the second district representing a total public/private investment of more than $350-million. And 295 additional units are now under construction representing an additional $121-million.

During his public remarks at the grand opening, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas focused on the economic benefits of supportive housing to the county. He noted that building housing costs far less than incarceration.

“Many talk about redemption, recovery and reentry,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The Coalition for Responsible Community Development is doing it.”

 

Formerly Homeless Find Affordable Housing

For seven years, Irvin Dixon, 59, had been homeless in Los Angeles County.  He slept on public benches and waited in long lines for free meals.  Sal Tovar, 52, had spent nine years homeless.  He remembers taking “bird baths” in the park to stay clean.  But thanks to a collaboration among the city, county and several community groups, 56 new units that rent for about $50 a month are home to nearly 100 other residents such as Dixon and Tovar.

Addressing an audience assembled recently to mark the opening of the South Los Angeles Supportive Housing Program,  Yolanda Vera, deputy for healthcare services for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said: “This is an example of blight made right.”

The Department of Health Services Neighborhood Stabilization Project Housing development consists of 15 formerly-blighted properties.  The properties were purchased and remodeled by the City of Los Angeles Housing Department and Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles and are now operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.  The project is a collaborative partnership among the city, the county, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Home for Good and the Hilton Foundation.

The new housing is aimed to help those homeless individuals who are most in need and high users of county health resources.

“Providing housing is actually money-saving for the health system,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.  According to Dr. Katz, housing one homeless person costs between $600 to $900 per month whereas hospital time can cost $3,300 per day.  The health services department estimates that the annual cost for inpatient services for homeless patients is roughly $70 million or $30,000 per patient.

The comprehensive project includes mental health services and substance abuse treatment.  Over $12 million in newly renovated housing units were provided by the City of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department.  $5.4 million in rental subsidies over 10 years was provided by the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles.  $7.2 million over 10 years in health services was provided by the Los Angeles County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Public Health.

According to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, “These new units are just the beginning of a revolutionary approach to heal through housing.”

Tovar does not forget his own recent struggles: Once a month he loads a suitcase full of cakes, bread and tortillas and takes it to a food bank to help feed less fortunate homeless people.  He feels compelled to “pay it forward.” Tovar said, “It makes me feel good because I’m able to help them out.”

Can Housing L.A. County’s Homeless Families Save Money?


In Los Angeles County, 7,391 families struggle nightly to find a way to survive without shelter. In 2010, several agencies began to develop a regional approach to providing not just housing, but supportive services and need-based assistance to better help homeless families regain stability. In some cases, mental health and substance abuse services, or housing assistance made the difference.

The Family Solutions Centers started last March with $3.7 million in city and county funding, with the goal of rapidly rehousing homeless households and offering centers throughout Los Angeles County where homeless can go to have problems professionally assessed. To date, there are seven lead agencies that host Family Solution Centers in six of the eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. These Family Solutions can direct families to health services, employment assistance services, rental assistance or emergency housing. And the program has already proven to be successful, having seen 1,542 families between March and December. Three hundred and two of those families were able to avoid homelessness, 305 were placed in interim housing, and 417 were provided permanent housing.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $10.2 million to set up more Family Solution Centers to offer more services. An additional $2.4 million is also being considered for mental health services. The centers will extend to at least eight agencies and promises to service all eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. The services will be expanded to include social service case managers and substance abuse treatment. The expanded program will promote collaboration between public agencies and homeless service providers and be called the Homeless Family Solutions System. The system also includes the collection of data to assess which programs are working and to track long term success with families.

“Families are the core of our community,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And today we have the opportunity to improve the way we deliver services to those families most in need.”

Christine Mirasy-Glasco, executive director of Upward Bound House, a community-based social service agency, testified before Board of Supervisors Tuesday in support of expanding Family Solutions Centers. The centers, she said, have streamlined the process of getting help for families. “Families used to have to travel around the entire county every day looking for services,” Mirasy-Glasco said. “This changes all of that.”

A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that 85 percent of homeless people in Philadelphia who were given housing and support were still in housing two years later and were unlikely to become homeless again.
Research shows that people spend less time in expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds when they have housing. Children are able to attend school and do homework when they have a warm home, a bed to sleep in and a sturdy table to write on.

“It is a proven program. It works. And it’s been evaluated,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, “Without question, supporting homeless families with services and housing saves money in the long run. It simply costs less to serve and house than it does to ignore. It’s an investment in our future.”

Click here for more information about Family Service Centers.

Homeless Advocate Named Woman of the Year

 

A hearty congratulations to Marsha Temple, executive director of the homeless advocacy agency, Integrated Recovery Network, who has been selected as the Second Supervisorial District’s Woman of the Year.

Temple was chosen by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas for her outstanding work helping homeless people reclaim their lives by finding housing, health care and jobs.

Temple, who is an attorney, has been an advocate for the homeless and homeless issues for years. In her work at the Integrated Recovery Network, she has championed the need to help mentally ill people released from the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, finding them housing, mental health services and addiction management so that with counseling, they can address the substance abuse and other issues and that threaten their stability and risk a return to jail.

 

She will join seven other women, selected by other members of the board of supervisors, who will be honored for their work bringing about social and economic change at a luncheon sponsored by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women on March 11.

“It is a huge honor to be chosen to represent the Second Supervisorial District as Woman of the Year for my work with the Integrated Recovery Network. So many people are working to find housing for people who are homeless, to provide access to medical and psychiatric care, to reduce recidivism rates, to help people who have been homeless find jobs,” said Temple.

“I dedicate this award to the staff of the Integrated Recovery Network. My colleagues work alongside me every day, creating opportunities for life-altering transformations of people who might not otherwise have the chance to lead dignified and productive lives.”  Temple has also served as past president of the Board of Directors of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, the Board of Governors of Marina del Rey Hospital, as chair of the Board of Directors of the Venice Family Clinic and she is currently on the Board of Governors of Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

As an attorney for 20 years, Temple represented hospital clients in a variety of liability actions including medical and psychiatric malpractice, breach of contract and defended allegations of elder abuse.

The LA County Commission for Women champions many causes including employment, gender equity, promoting access to health care for women of all ages, ending violence against women and supporting legislation that positively impacts the lives of women.

“Marsha Temple exemplifies the selfless and tireless work that it takes to help the most challenged people in our society get back on their feet,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “She and her staff understand the importance of giving all human beings a chance to live a decent life and she richly deserves this honor .”