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County’s Multi-Pronged Affordable Housing Strategy Yields 3,300 New Affordable Apartments

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas poses with residents of LINC Housing’s Mosaic Gardens at Willowbrook. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

By putting in a down payment of $182 million, Los Angeles County has leveraged $1.7 billion in public and private funds towards the construction of 3,362 affordable apartments over the last five years, two-thirds of which were reserved for people struggling with homelessness, mental illness and physical disabilities.

According to a report by the Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA), every dollar put in by the County over the last five years has been matched sixfold by public and private funders. Encouraged by this success, the County is ramping up its investment in building and preserving affordable apartments.

Tiki Apartments. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

“Since last year, Los Angeles County has tripled its investment in affordable apartments to $90 million, providing desperately needed help to many of our neighbors struggling with homelessness,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Given the magnitude of the crisis, we must continue to scale up our response and use every tool at our disposal, from financial incentives and streamlined entitlements to creative policymaking.”

“As The Bible says, ‘where there is no vision the people perish,’ and I am very proud that the Board of Supervisors has had the vision to make a significant new investment in affordable housing and are beginning to see the results,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, chair of the Board. “Our homeless crisis is fed by our affordable housing crisis, and so the County has embarked on addressing the homeless/affordable housing crisis in many ways. We have not solved the problem yet, but every time we house 1,000 people, that’s 1,000 more people who are stably housed and not on the street or at risk of falling into homelessness. Today’s report reflects visionary and innovative work and we will continue this work until we solve our housing problems.”

Athens Vistas Groundbreaking Ceremony. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

As one of the largest public housing authorities in the country, CDC/HACoLA also helped house 21,000 low-income households through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program; 1,418 special needs households through the Continuum of Care Program, which primarily serves people who are homeless, or struggling with mental health issues and/or physical disabilities; and 1,754 veterans in households through Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers. From program inception to date, through Measure H, the County’s Homeless Incentive Program has helped 850 formerly homeless individuals, families and veterans find housing by providing incentives to landlords.

Architectural model of Skid Row Housing Trust development. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

“Through initiatives both large and small, we are helping to close the 568,000-unit gap in affordable housing and bring people home through preservation and development,” Monique King-Viehland, Executive Director of CDC/HACoLA, shared. “And as a County of our size, we need big initiatives so that people go home.”

Additionally, homeowner programs, administered by the CDC/HACoLA, have assisted 171 homeowners throughout the County and provided more than $41 million in funding to facilitate homeownership countywide, with an emphasis on low- to moderate-income households, in Fiscal Year 2017-18. In the same time frame, the County has provided $4.6 million in preservation services to more than 200 low- to moderate-income households, primarily seniors, through a variety of homeownership improvement strategies.

CDC/HACoLA, in coordination with the County Chief Executive Office, reported on the status of affordable housing preservation and development at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

GETTING EVERYONE IN_A Snapshort of Supportive Housing_June 2018(2)

Stricter Oversight Sought
for Sativa Water

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called on the California State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento to appoint a representative to exercise “vigorous oversight” of Sativa Water District, after many of its 1,600 customers in Willowbrook and Compton reported brown water running through their taps in April.

In a letter to the Water Board’s executive director, Eileen Sobeck, the Supervisor credited both state regulators and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with confirming there are currently no violations of “primary” water standards within Sativa’s jurisdiction. The Supervisor noted, however, that there have been “secondary” water quality violations related to increased levels of manganese and for turbidity.

“These troublesome incidents underscore the longstanding deficiencies associated with Sativa’s lack of proper fiscal management and operational capacity,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Simply put, Sativa has not demonstrated an adequate ability to address its deferred maintenance challenges or to provide high quality water to its customers in a sustainable manner going forward.”

He added that while the County is assessing potential alternative water providers, the Water Board should monitor Sativa closely. “I write to respectfully request that the State Board immediately take all appropriate steps to exercise vigorous oversight of Sativa, including selecting a representative for that purpose, to ensure proper fiscal and operational activities are occurring during the period in which Sativa is till responsible for providing water to its customers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “A competent representative selected by the Water Board for this purpose could help regain the public’s trust and facilitate stability and oversight during this tumultuous period.”

When Sativa customers first expressed alarm about the brown water running through their taps, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, take immediate steps to prevent any serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s infrastructure issues. At his direction, the County also distributed approximately 20,000 gallons of bottled water to residents of Willowbrook and Compton.

When Sativa flushed its pipes after an extended period without proper maintenance, the lingering sediment caused intermittent discoloration and cloudiness in the water supply.

Supervisor Receives Honorary Degree from CDU

Charles R. Drew University President/CEO Dr. David Carlisle confers honorary degree on Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. All photos by Dave Franco/Board of Supervisors.

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science conferred an honorary degree on Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas during its 34th Annual Commencement Ceremony at the StubHub Center in Carson.

“It is an honor to be recognized by an institution founded on the principles of equity and social justice to provide high quality instruction for aspiring healthcare professionals who will serve our most vulnerable communities,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, a longtime supporter of CDU and a member of its Board of Directors from 1986-1991.

CDU confers honorary degrees on distinguished individuals who have demonstrated intellectual and humane values consistent with its mission. Dr. Loretta Jones, founder and CEO of Healthy African American Families, Phase II (HAAF-II), also received an honorary degree during the ceremony.

With US Rep. Nanette Barragán delivering the commencement address, CDU awarded 365 graduates with certificates, diplomas, associates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Science and Health, College of Medicine, and the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing.

“This year’s group of honorary degree recipients, as well as our commencement speaker, offers our graduates yet another example of the tremendous impact that dedicated service and activism have on the communities in which we live and work,” said CDU President/CEO Dr. David Carlisle. “We look forward to welcoming and honoring these individuals, as well as the accomplishments of the Class of 2018.”

Avis Ridley-Thomas with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since 2008, championing efforts to address the crisis of homelessness, criminal justice reform, healthcare for all, living wage, economic and workforce development, transit improvements, affordable quality education, voting rights, and a host of other critical issues. He is widely regarded as the foremost advocate of neighborhood participation in government decision-making by virtue of his founding the Empowerment Congress.

First elected to public office in 1991, he previously served on the Los Angeles City Council, California State Assembly, and California State Senate. His political career was preceded by a decade as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.

Supervisor Ridley-Thoms earned BA and MA degrees, along with secondary and adult education credentials, from Immaculate Heart College. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California, with a focus on Social Criticism and Social Change.

CDU also conferred an honorary degree on Dr. Jones, who has dedicated her life to instilling hope and healing in communities and society at large with a career as a civil rights activist, health policy advocate and social architect spanning more than four decades. In an effort to level the playing field for all people, Dr. Jones continues her unyielding commitment as a change agent, working to eliminate disparities in community and individual health, and to improve community development and opportunity.

Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU is a private, nonprofit, student-centered, minority-serving medical and health sciences university that is committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations through outstanding education, research, clinical service, and community engagement.

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s 34th Annual Commencement Ceremony at StubHub Center

 

Fiscal Health Matters:
Can LAUSD Govern Accordingly?

Op-Ed

By Mark Ridley-Thomas

I recently had the opportunity to see Austin Beutner in action as the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District when we both visited the Boys Academic Leadership Academy at George Washington Preparatory High School in South L.A.

LAUSD is at a pivotal moment and must take advantage of this change in leadership to avert impending financial disaster. I urge Superintendent Beutner and the Board of Education to join forces to ensure the nation’s second largest school district and its students are thriving.

I recognize that our schools face profound educational challenges, with more than 60 percent of students struggling to read, write and speak fluently, and more than 70 percent struggling with math. Though the district had an 81 percent graduation rate in the previous school year, more than half of its graduates were found ineligible for admission to the UC and CSU systems.

Nevertheless, I remain steadfast in urging LAUSD to make fiscal solvency its top priority.

One might argue that the district doesn’t have a choice. With a deficit projected to surpass $400 million in the upcoming fiscal year, the District may become obligated to spend more outside the classroom than inside it. Unless reforms are implemented, and quickly, that gap will grow even wider. California school districts receive state funding based largely on attendance, and enrollment in the LAUSD has already dropped precipitously, down to 500,000 from a peak of 700,000.

It wasn’t always this way. When I was growing up, engineers in Los Angeles helped put an American on the moon. Whether students want to be engineers, machinists, artists, doctors, teachers or even public servants, they need the basic building blocks of education. When even those are threatened by their school district’s financial instability, even the best academic innovations will fail.

Already, California ranks near states like Mississippi and Alabama – at the bottom of the list – in terms of how much it invests in students. New York City, the nation’s largest school district, provides more than $20,000 per pupil; compare that to just $15,000 in Los Angeles. But matching or even exceeding those numbers would not be enough of a solution, given LAUSD’s structural challenges.

Superintendent Beutner should work closely with the Board to appoint an independent fiscal monitor who will deliver monthly reports and recommend immediate steps to bolster economic stability that can be implemented within the 2018-2019 school year.

As teachers hold the key to our students’ success, I hope Superintendent Beutner will invest in them as well. He should consider teacher residency programs, as well as individualized professional development plans.

Superintendent Beutner should also prioritize improving the curriculum to adapt to the changing economy, and increase access to apprenticeships, paid internships, and specialized instruction that can better prepare students to join the workforce.

I always marvel at how Los Angeles County’s economy – the 17th largest in the world – continues to grow and diversify. The next generation of Angelenos must to be prepared to succeed in emerging job opportunities across all sectors, such as bioscience.

Previous superintendents have wrestled with the district’s grim fiscal reality with varying degrees of success and failure. Some established misguided priorities, while others aimed too low to be deemed truly successful.

Superintendent Beutner must have the courage to make bold decisions in the face of resistance, the business acumen to correct the district’s perilous finances, and an understanding of local culture and politics to carry out the necessary changes.

We cannot continue to do business as usual. We must ensure that future generations of Angelenos are empowered to lead our industries and our communities.

Mr. Superintendent, you now have the job you sought. Now show us how to save the District.

Mark Ridley-Thomas is a former high school teacher and currently serves as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

2018 Homeless Count Declines for the First Time in Four Years

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) is building supportive housing funded through Measure H, Proposition HHH, and other resources. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County fell for the first time in four years to 53,195 — a three percent decline —  according to the 2018 Homeless Count.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which conducted the Count, also saw a record number of people placed into housing, as well as double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness.

However, the Count also recorded an increase in the number of people who became homeless for the first time, suggesting that the root causes of homelessness, such as the affordable housing crisis, have continued to worsen.

“A three percent reduction in the Homeless Count means we are on the right track, but this is no time to rest,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We should use this momentum to accelerate our efforts to address what I consider to be the civic and moral crisis of our time, to scale up our compassion and innovation. These numbers are a call to action to every resident of Los Angeles County to join in the fight to end homelessness. Everyone In!

Rendering of PATH Metro Villas Phase 2, slated for completion in October 2019. PATH Metro Villas Phase 1, located in the same compound, is slated for completion in July 2018.

The Supervisor spoke during a press conference at a construction site where the nonprofit organization, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), is building almost 200 housing units whose supportive services will be funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure H. Slated for completion in October 2019, PATH Metro Villas will also include a 3,000-sq. ft. primary healthcare clinic, a mental health clinic, a Veterans Connections Center, and other facilities, funded with Measure H and the Homeless Initiative, Proposition HHH, and a host of other public and private resources.

“Voters put their trust in us to deliver housing and services for people living on our streets, and today we see that our efforts are yielding results,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the press conference. “There are thousands of people counting on us to keep going, so we are pressing relentlessly forward until every Angeleno has a safe place to sleep at night.”

“For the first time in four years we saw the number of people homeless in LA County decrease,” LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn said. “It’s encouraging, and indicates new resources voters approved are already having an impact. We housed more than 16,500 people — the most our region has ever achieved. As the funds and programs from Measures H and Proposition HHH begin to reach more people and create more housing, we will continue building on this momentum.”

Gloria Johnson

In 2017, 16,519 people moved into homes in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LA C0C), which refers to Los Angeles County, excluding Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach. That number is a significant increase from 14,214 in 2016 and 10,917 in 2015.

Gloria Johnson, a nurse’s assistant and former foster youth who experienced homelessness for years before securing affordable housing, said she volunteered for the Count because she wanted to give back.

“Getting into housing has allowed me to go back to school and find a career as a housing case manager at HOPICS in South LA, which provides services, support and outreach to homeless people of all ages,” she said. “My mom died last year — homeless. But I am ending that cycle. My kids have a bed to sleep in. I have a home.”

Among the most striking discoveries in the 2018 Count were double-digit drops in chronic and veteran homelessness. The number of people who are chronically homeless, defined as those with a disabling condition who have experienced homelessness for at least a year, fell 16 percent from 17,204 in 2017 to 14,389 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans fell 18 percent from 4,792 to 3,910.

The 2018 Count also told a promising story about homeless youth. The overall number of youth did not show a significant change, shifting from 3,233 to 3,306, which is statistically within the margin of error. However, 53 percent of homeless youth in 2018 were sheltered, up from 45 percent in 2017.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with PATH CEO Joel John Roberts.

“We are still in the early stages of implementing our homeless initiatives, but these numbers show that our strategies are the right ones and we are beginning to make progress,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “These results should give us the confidence to double down on our efforts. There are still more than 53,000 people on the streets and they should know that help is on the way.”

“Today’s results demonstrate that change is possible if we stay on this road and we aggressively push forward toward solutions together,” added Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Daunting challenges remain in the fight against homelessness, since Los Angeles County has an affordable housing shortage of 565,255 units, partly because rents have been rising faster than incomes. More than a quarter of the homeless who are unsheltered —  9,322 people (LA CoC) — ended up on the streets for the first time in 2017.

The 2018 Count found that homelessness was not driven by new arrivals. Only 10 percent of those surveyed had been in Los Angeles County for a year or less. About 65 percent have been local residents for more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, black people remain overrepresented among the homeless. They account for only 9 percent of the County’s overall population, but represent 35 percent of its homeless population, down from 40 percent the year before.

Other findings of the Count:

Household Types (LA County):

  • Single Adults: 80 percent
  • Families with children under age 18: 14 percent
  • Young Adults ages 18-24, living without a parent or guardian: 6 percent

Gender (LA County):

  • Male: 67 percent
  • Female: 31 percent
  • Transgender: 2 percent

Race and Ethnicity (LA CoC)

  • Hispanic or Latino: 35 percent
  • White: 25 percent
  • Black/African-American: 35 percent
  • Asian: 1 percent
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 1 percent
  • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 1 percent
  • Multi-Racial/Other: 1 percent

Age (LA CoC):

  • 22% increase in seniors 62 and older
  • All other age groups saw a slight decrease

Domestic Violence (LA CoC):

  • 3,081 people (6% percent) reported becoming homeless because they fled domestic/intimate partner violence

Health Conditions (LA County):

  • 15 percent report a substance use disorder
  • 27 percent report a serious mental illness

LAHSA conducted the 2018 Count with the help of more than 8,500 volunteers, who fanned out across 4,000 square miles on January 23-25, 2018  to conduct a point-in-time census of the homeless population.