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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Moves to Shut Down Pipeline From Foster Care to Juvenile Justice

(Left to Right): Michael Nash (OCP), Taylor Lytle (ARC), Xavier Bruttomesso (National Foster Youth Institute), Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey (Children’s Data Network), Jesse de la Cruz (Alliance for Children’s Rights), Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Lawrence Winston (NFYI), and Julio Marcial (Liberty Hill). All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion aimed at preventing foster youth from becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring supportive care for those do.

Such “dual status” or “crossover” youth, who fall under the jurisdiction of both the dependency and delinquency systems, are a particularly vulnerable population: a 2016 report by Cal State Los Angeles showed that three-quarters of dual status youth had a mental health diagnosis, and one-tenth had attempted suicide.

“The issue of dual status youth is fundamental to the very question of how the County can improve its social safety net,” said the motion’s principal author, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The foster care to juvenile justice pipeline is real, and all too common. Once foster youth cross over to the delinquency system, the outcomes are grim – one-third of dual status youth are not even enrolled in school. Now is the time to reverse these trends.”

His coauthor, Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, added, “We are seeing the same kids who have lived in foster homes end up in juvenile halls and probation camps. We are losing a generation of youth to the system, but these youth are in our care and we have a responsibility to do better. They need informed supportive services so they can break free from the cycle of neglect, trauma, and delinquency and forge their own path to a better life. I hope this report will help us find ways to address this issue and provide our youth with the tools they need to succeed.”

Julio Marcial, Director of Youth Justice with the Liberty Hill Foundation, Taylor Lytle, Youth Advocate with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), and Jesse de la Cruz (Alliance for Children’s Rights), provide testimony during the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Taylor Lytle entered the foster care system at age 11, only to become a victim of abuse in her foster placement and placed on unnecessary psychotropic medication that, as she described, “robbed me of my voice and ability to advocate for myself.” She was first arrested and sent to juvenile hall at age 13 for an incident at her group home, and cycled in and out of juvenile hall and probation camps for probation violations over the next four years. “I feel like the system failed me,” she told the Board. “I spent most of my teenage years incarcerated for violations like school suspensions, drug use and running away from placements – clear signs of the trauma and anger I was experiencing. I wish somebody would have just helped me reconnect with my siblings and offered me guidance. Once you enter the justice system, it is so hard to get out of it. I am hopeful that this motion can change that, and I look forward to participating in finding the solutions.”

Several other former dual status youth, connected to advocacy organizations like Alliance for Children’s Rights and National Foster Youth Institute, provided compelling testimony at the Board meeting.

Liliana Flores was referred to the foster care system after experiencing physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her parents. “I was put in a group home where there was gang activity and drugs on a daily basis. I was hurting and got caught up in it. I was arrested twice and put in juvenile hall by the age of 16,” she said. “I continued to bounce around from juvenile halls to group homes without any guidance or help in regards to my education, social skills, or citizenship. During my teenage years, I felt like the system completely forgot about me. It is important that, with this motion, we change this dynamic. I don’t want any youth to have to experience what I did.”

Michael Nash, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection (OCP), speaks in support of the motion, which charges the OCP with convening the workgroup that will draft the Countywide plan.

“I’m excited about this motion because it calls for a collaborative approach,” said Children’s Data Network co-director Jacquelyn McCroskey. “One of our organization’s recent studies found way too many of our youth have been moving back and forth across the child welfare and delinquency systems. They and their families are too important not to bring all resources to bear in support of creating better futures.”

The newly approved motion charges the Office of Child Protection (OCP) with creating a countywide plan for dual status youth – and those at risk of becoming such youth – that is informed by an understanding of their particular needs and the policy changes underway. The motion passed unanimously, with minor amendments and suggestions to ensure disparities among LGBTQ youth are addressed as well as legal relief and record clearing offered to dual status youth.

The OCP is uniquely poised to lead this work. It will liaise with the Juvenile Court; convene affected youth, and the County departments and community stakeholders serving them; identify funds to enhance services; and build on improvements already underway.

OCP Executive Director Michael Nash, a retired presiding judge of the Juvenile Court and longtime advocate for dual status youth, said, “I view this motion as an excellent opportunity for the OCP to work with all the relevant stakeholders to move this effort forward.”

“There are few children more in need of our collective hard work and commitment than those who are been impacted by both the child welfare and criminal justice systems,” Probation Director Terry McDonald said. “We believe that by strengthening our partnership and resolve, we can improve the lives of young people who have experienced far too much trauma and often neglect.”

“Having worked in both Probation and child welfare, I can tell you from firsthand experience that these youth have experienced trauma and need all the support we can provide,” added Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across County departments to ensure these youth have caring adults in their lives to provide them with a safe and loving environment.”

Breaking Ground on the Lucas Museum

Lucas Museum cofounders Mellody Hobson and George Lucas, flanked by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Curren Price, architect Ma Yansong, and other dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Filmmaker George Lucas and Mellody Hobson led the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park, joined by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Curren Price. It is slated for completion in late 2021.

“The focus of the Museum is to open up people’s imaginations and inspire them to dream beyond what is considered possible,” said Lucas. “Narrative art and storytelling stirs our emotions, shapes our aspirations as a society, and is the glue that binds us together around our common beliefs.”

“Our goal is to create the world’s most inclusive and accessible art museum — a place that brings together people from every walk of life,” added Hobson. “We are excited to call Exposition Park home, surrounded by more than 100 elementary and high schools, one of the country’s leading universities, as well as three other world-class museums.”

Designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, the Lucas Museum will celebrate the art of visual storytelling and enable people of diverse backgrounds to experience the power of narrative art across all mediums, including painting, illustration, comic art, photography, film, animation and digital art. Co-founders Lucas and Hobson intend for it to be a place where visitors feel comfortable and welcomed by engaging with art forms they may already recognize and love.

The 300,000 sq. ft. nonprofit museum will feature collection galleries and exhibition spaces displaying original works of art from world-renowned artists, cutting-edge digital technologies and daily film screenings in two state-of-the-art theaters. It will also offer extraordinary educational opportunities with hands-on and digital classrooms and a free public research library for educators, scholars and students. Education will be a centerpiece of the Museum’s programming to provide diverse students of all ages the skills to voice their own stories and spark creativity.

The project will transform a series of asphalt parking lots into a museum surrounded by 11 acres of new parkland and gardens designed by Los Angeles-based landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA. Thousands of jobs will be created directly and indirectly as a result of the Museum.

“Today is a momentous occasion, as we break ground on what will surely become one of Los Angeles County’s most popular and beloved landmarks,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The Lucas Museum will not only display brilliant works of art, but also teach countless children the science and technological skills needed for careers in the film, animation and design industries. It will cement Exposition Park‘s reputation as a world-class destination for arts and entertainment.”

Addressing the Epidemic of Gun Violence

L-R: Joni Novosel, Center for Healthier Communities; Albert Melena, San Fernando Valley Partnership; Paul Carrillo, Crossroads; Anthony Ortiz Luis, Valley Care Community Consortium. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Seeking to address the epidemic of gun violence, the Board of Supervisors voted to evaluate potential ordinances for restricting the availability of firearms and for strengthening gun control regulations, as well as to consider creating a new agency to coordinate violence prevention strategies.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“We’ve had enough moments of silence, of praying for slain co-workers, school children and neighbors,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, principal author of the motion. “We need to be taking every possible action and refuse to be satisfied by anything short of a comprehensive approach to this public health crisis that addresses not only gun violence but child and elder abuse, and domestic and intimate partner violence. We want to prepare a comprehensive plan to ensure that every man, woman, and child in this county is free from violence.”

Every year, about 30,000 people nationwide die as a result of gun violence, and 85,000 people are injured. In Los Angeles County, firearms kill an average of at least three people every day.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“It is imperative that we broaden the conversation beyond just tightening regulations for firearms and gun safety,” said the motion’s co-author, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We must take a comprehensive approach – including looking at the problem from a public health perspective – to help our communities break the patterns that ultimately result in acts of violence. Our work must encompass stricter gun laws as well as a range of violence prevention strategies.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that 100 people were killed in mass shootings in Parkland, Florida; Sutherland Springs, Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada, just in the last five months. In the US, 7,000 children under age 18 are wounded or killed by gunshots every year. Firearms are the third leading cause of death among those ages 1-17. These statistics, however, do not even begin to address the psychological trauma inflicted on families and communities.

Patti Giggans, Peace Over Violence, testifies in support of the motion. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

“Regulating guns and curbing gun violence remains a divisive issue but we must prevail in developing common-sense and innovative policies because – make no mistake – gun violence is a public health crisis,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Following the mass shooting of San Bernardino County public health employees at a Christmas Party in December 2015, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion asking for a report on gun violence prevention regulations. The report, released on June 2017, found that several local governments in California have adopted constitutional gun control regulations that are stronger than those in Los Angeles County. It also discovered that various County departments have a range of violence prevention initiatives, but these efforts are not coordinated.

Barbara King-Wilson, with Mothers Demanding Action, testifies in support of the motion. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

In their motion, Board Chair Kuehl and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas wrote, “Establishing a single Office of Violence Prevention that is responsible for coordinating the County’s myriad violence prevention programs can be a first step towards the County’s adoption of a more strategic approach to preventing gun violence in our County. Such an office will also be able to help the County identify the gaps in our current array of violence prevention programs.”

Several people testified in support of the motion.“We applaud the County for taking the initiative to explore how to reduce the number of guns on the street,” said Paul Carillo, executive director of the nonprofit Southern California Crossroads.“We also know from personal and professional experience that reducing violence requires changing the mindset of those who live in violence-impacted communities.”

“I’m here to endorse this big idea to look at how millions of people can live together without doing intentional harm to each other,” added Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence. “I’m also here to express support for it being comprehensive and not just about guns and gangs. It’s so important to including domestic violence, sexual assault, and other intersectional aspects of violence.”

 

Shutting Down the Pipeline from
Foster Care to Juvenile Justice

Amid sweeping changes in child welfare policy at the federal and state level, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced a motion aimed at slashing the number of foster youth who become entangled in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring supportive care for those who do touch both systems. The Board of Supervisors will hear the motion on March 20, 2018.

Such “dual status” or “crossover” youth, who fall under the jurisdiction of both the dependency and delinquency systems, are a particularly vulnerable population: a 2016 report by Cal State Los Angeles showed that three-quarters of dual status youth had a mental health diagnosis, and one-tenth had attempted suicide. Moreover, a 2011 study by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation found 4 in 5 such youth rely on public welfare benefits during early adulthood.

“Many of these youth have been victims of serious trauma, and getting caught up in the justice system only traumatizes them further,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Half of dual status youth in the County are struggling in school or not attending regularly. Too many may end up languishing in juvenile hall due to insufficient community-based placements. We can and must do better.”

Los Angeles County has a history of addressing the particular needs of dual status youth. It was one of the first counties in California to let youth remain in both the dependency and delinquency courts to improve service delivery. In 2012 and 2013, the Board approved Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motions to improve prevention, intervention, funding for services, and data collection for this population.

The landscape has changed in the intervening years. Continuum of Care Reform in California is fundamentally altering the types of housing available for youth in the child welfare system, ending the concept of group homes as we know it. Meanwhile, the Families First Prevention Services Act will affect financing streams for federal child welfare. This is a critical time for Los Angeles County to lead on this issue and shut down the pipeline from the foster care system to the juvenile justice system.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas latest motion, coauthored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, charges the Office of Child Protection (OCP) with creating a countywide plan for dual status youth – and those at risk of becoming such youth – that is informed by an understanding of their particular needs and the policy changes underway.

The OCP is uniquely poised to lead this work. It will liaise with the Juvenile Court; convene affected youth and the County departments and community stakeholders serving them; identify funds to enhance services; and build on improvements already underway. OCP Executive Director Michael Nash, a retired presiding judge of the Juvenile Court and longtime advocate for dual status youth, said, “I view this motion as an excellent opportunity for the OCP to work with all the relevant stakeholders to move this effort forward.”

“There are few children more in need of our collective hard work and commitment than those who are been impacted by both the child welfare and criminal justice systems,” Probation Director Terry McDonald said. “We believe that by strengthening our partnership and resolve, we can improve the lives of young people who have experienced far too much trauma and often neglect.”

“Having worked in both Probation and child welfare, I can tell you from firsthand experience that these youth have experienced trauma and need all the support we can provide,” added Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across County departments to ensure these youth have caring adults in their lives to provide them with a safe and loving environment.”