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Ensuring Collaboration and Accountability in Homeless Funding

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hears testimony on his motion. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

With voters weighing Measure H on March 7, the Board of Supervisors kicked off a collaborative and transparent process for budgeting prospective funds from the ballot initiative so that experts, stakeholders and members of the public have an opportunity to participate in crafting a plan to end homelessness.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that establishes “an inclusive planning process which draws on the experience, expertise and wisdom of cities, homeless service providers and experts, the faith and business communities, formerly homeless individuals and County departments.”

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Chairman Ridley-Thomas said, “Our objective here is to evidence that we are serious about accountability, serious about transparency, and to be comprehensive as is committed in the ballot language.”

Supervisor Kuehl added, “We can only succeed if we have the input and support of the very civic and community leaders who are going to help us house the 47,000 people currently homeless in the County.” 

Measure H is expected to raise about $350 million every year for a decade to provide multidimensional services and housing assistance for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, Measure H would generate funds to provide the homeless with, among other services:

• mental health and substance abuse treatments
• health care
• education and job training
• rental and housing subsidies
• case management and services
• emergency and affordable housing
• transportation
• outreach, prevention and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals and other homeless adults.

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L-R: Phil Ansell, Homeless Initiative; Joseph Altepeter, Downtown Women’s Center; Eva Williams, CSH.

The services would be consistent with the County’s Homeless Initiative which developed 47 strategies for preventing and combatting homelessness after conducting 18 policy summits that brought together more than 1,000 experts and stakeholders.

Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell vowed the budget planning process for Measure H would also be “inclusive, collaborative and transparent,” with meetings open to the public and subject to the Brown Act. 

“To ensure the funding is allocated as fairly and effectively as possible, it is vital that key stakeholders such as service providers, housing and homeless experts, County departments and individuals with lived homeless experiences, are engaged in the process,” Joseph Altepeter, director of vocational education and social enterprise at the Downtown Women’s Center, told the Board.

“It is only through a collaborative and coordinated approach that we will realize success in housing all of our homeless neighbors living throughout Los Angeles,” agreed Eva Williams, Los Angeles director of CSH, a nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable individuals and families.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending. A Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board will also publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik, Los Angeles Business Council president Mary Leslie, New Directions for Veterans President and CEO Yvette Kelley and Children’s Defense Fund-California Executive Director Alex Johnson signed the argument in favor of Measure H. There were no arguments submitted against Measure H. 

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Pan African Film Festival Celebrates 25th Year in Los Angeles

This year, the Pan African Film Festival celebrates its 25th year with a 12-day movie marathon taking place February 9-20, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw 15 Theater located within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, at 3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near Leimert Park. The festival will screen 202 films, 124 of which are feature-length. The 78 short films screened are up for consideration for Academy Awards. The Academy approved the PAFF as a qualifying festival.

“Cinematic stories matter,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And this film festival taking place just blocks from Leimert Park has become an international cultural resource to showcase new narratives over the last quarter of a century. We are indeed privileged to have it in our backyard.”

During Black History Month and representing 56 countries on six continents, the festival will screen the largest selection of black films ever screened at one event. The PAFF screened the first films of such prominent black filmmakers as Gina Prince Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), Malcolm D. Lee (“Best Man”), Michael Jennings (“Moonlight”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma” &“13th”) and Academy Award winner Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”). The PAFF also screened films by Raul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Oscar nominated Mahamat Saleh Haroun (“Gris Gris”) and many others.

“It’s been an incredible experience to witness the growth of this PAFF and at the same time witness the tremendous development of the Pan African film Industry,” says Ayuko Babu, PAFF Executive Director. “Both have allowed me the pleasure of working with thousands of filmmakers and honoring the artistry from South Africa to Atlanta – all of whom tell their own stories and present their images to the world so beautifully. So now in our 25th year, PAFF will again present the largest selection of Black films ever to be screened at one event and honor the best storytellers and artists for their work.”

Watch an exclusive interview with Executive Director and co-founder Ayuko Babu below:

This year, the festival will celebrate the work of actress Alfre Woodard with The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by PAFF Co-Founder Ja’net Dubois during the Opening Night Gala, Thursday February 9th held at the DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles. The Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Woodard’s’ extraordinary career, having captured the hearts of theater-goers, moviegoers and TV watchers. Woodard has been able to transcend both genre and medium with work that scans over 30 years– all reflecting strong yet flawed black women. Alfre will share her journey with the PAFF audience in a hosted, one-on-one “Conversation With Alfre Woodard,” on Sunday February 10th at 3pm, narrated by Director Neema Barnett held at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Theater.

“I get excited every year right about this time because I know the Pan African Film Festival is coming. This means that I have felt this exhilaration 25 times!,” says honoree Alfre Woodard. “PAFF always delivers artfully curated entertainment and information in diverse genres. This year I’m particularly thrilled that they have invited me to represent their legacy of bringing engaging stories from filmmakers of the African diaspora to Los Angeles, the birthplace of American Cinema. As always, Feb 9-20th promises stimulating conversations and lively celebrations. You won’t want to miss it!”

The complete Screenings, Special Screenings & Events Lineup are available here: www.paff.org.

Fighting to Stop Human Trafficking

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Displaying a poster with the hotline to report human trafficking. (All Photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Both the County and City of Los Angeles will strengthen enforcement of a state law intended to help victims of modern day slavery, under efforts announced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Nury Martinez on the last day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Under Senate Bill 1193, authored by then state Senator and now Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, certain establishments are required to display a poster listing a telephone hotline such as (888) 539-2373 and other information that would enable victims and members of the public to report human trafficking. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Martinez each plan to look into how more establishments can be brought into compliance.

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Supervisor with Councilwoman Nury Martinez

“The County targets certain locations for intensified awareness-raising, such as emergency rooms, urgent care centers, transit centers and motels, which provide prime opportunities for trafficked persons to seek help in escaping from their traffickers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“SB 1193 must be enforced, because having access to that hotline information can be the one thing that saves her from the bondage of sex trafficking,” Councilwoman Martinez said. “When a young girl is being trafficked by a gang member pimp, she rarely knows whom she can turn to for help.”

Back in 2014, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion calling on the County’s Chief Executive and District Attorney to check compliance with SB 1193. Shortly afterwards, he joined the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) in launching the Human Trafficking Outreach Project (HTOP), which trains volunteers to reach out to establishments mandated to comply with SB 1193.

More than two years after its launch, HTOP reported that more than 50 percent of the establishments visited by its volunteers remain out of compliance. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will request a compliance update from the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Integrated Leadership Team, a multi-department entity  charged with coordinating the County’s response to CSEC, which he established by motion in 2015.

“It is imperative upon all of us to do whatever we can to stem the tide and stop the worldwide business of human trafficking,” NCJW/LA executive director Hillary Selvin said, adding, “Human trafficking is slavery.”

Kay Buck, president and chief executive of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said SB 1193 would help connect more victims to community support services such as those provided by her organization. “Since SB 1193 went into effect, CAST has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to our hotline, including calls from victims themselves seeking help,” she said.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice has found that requiring the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline to be posted in public areas was the most effective way to increase the number of human trafficking arrests. From 2007 to 2015, the NHTRC provided more than 6,500 tips to law enforcement.

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Civilian Oversight Commission
Gets to Work

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Civilian Oversight Commission. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

The Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department held its inaugural meeting, heralding a new era in the relationship between law enforcement and the people it is sworn to protect and serve.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion that created the  Commission, administered the oath of office to its members during a ceremony at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall.

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The Sheriff and Supervisor celebrate the Commission. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

“(The Commission) will play an important role in promoting transparency, restoring public trust, validating reform efforts, and enhancing the effectiveness of the Sheriff’s Department,” he declared. “I believe these things are fundamentally important.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the Commission, composed of community and faith leaders, a retired Sheriff’s lieutenant, former prosecutors and public defenders, professors and executives from legal non-profit organizations, would bring “much needed and welcome outside expertise and points of view.”

“The Civilian Oversight Commission will allow the people of Los Angeles County to participate in the process as we seek resolution to some of the most challenging criminal justice issues of our time,” he said.

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Community engagement at the inaugural meeting of the Civilian Oversight Commission. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

The Commission will meet on the fourth Thursday of every month to provide robust opportunities for community engagement, ongoing analysis and oversight of Sheriff’s Department policies, practices and procedures. It will work in partnership with the public, the Board of Supervisors and Office of Inspector General, in addition to the Sheriff’s Department.

The Commission’s members, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Robert Bonner, lawyer and former U.S. Attorney and DEA Administrator, who will chair the Commission;
  • Patti Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence;
  • JP Harris, former Sheriff’s lieutenant;
  • Sean Kennedy, Executive Director of Center for Juvenile Law & Policy at Loyola Law School and former federal public defender;
  • Heather Miller, Rabbi, Beth Chayim Chadashim;
  • Priscilla Ocen, Loyola Law School Associate Professor;
  • Lael Rubin, former Deputy District Attorney;
  • Xavier Thompson, President of Baptist Ministers’ Conference and Senior Pastor of the Southern Saint Paul Church, who will serve as the Commission’s vice chair; and
  • Hernán Vera, lawyer and former president and CEO of Public Counsel.
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Members of the Civilian Oversight Commission recite their oath. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

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Documenting the Crisis of Homelessness

Participating in the nation’s largest census of homeless people, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas walked the streets of Leimert Park and North Hollywood to observe firsthand what he has called the defining civic crisis of our time.

He joined an estimated 6,000 volunteers who spread out across 4,000 square miles over three bitterly cold nights to conduct the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count on January 24-26.

A homeless encampment in Leimert Park. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

A homeless encampment in Leimert Park. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

Talking to Homeless Count volunteers in Leimert Park (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

Led by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), volunteers looked under bridges, in alleys, at makeshift encampments and other locations to find out where the homeless live. They also conducted demographic surveys to determine how many among the homeless are veterans, youth aging out of the foster care system, people with physical or mental disabilities, and other subgroups with special needs.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin, LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn and Commission Chair Wendy Greuel, and LA Family Housing President & CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer kicked off the census in the San Fernando Valley, which has seen a tremendous increase in its homeless population.

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Participating in the Homeless Count at North Hollywood. (Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Just before volunteers began the Count in North Hollywood, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas exhorted them to support Proposition H on the March 7 ballot. If approved by voters, the initiative would cost the average consumer little more than a dollar a month while investing $350 million annually over a decade on proven solutions for preventing and ending homelessness.

“Yes on H!” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told volunteers. “Walk tonight, vote tomorrow.” He expressed particular concern over the 55 percent increase in the number of homeless women countywide between 2013 and 2016.

On the third and last day of the Count, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas again joined volunteers, this time in Leimert Park. He documented people living in tents and trailers, and under tarps hung on tree branches.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas participates in the 2017 Homeless Count in Leimert Park.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas participates in the 2017 Homeless Count in Leimert Park.

The Count will provide an accurate picture of the state of homelessness countywide, and guide the delivery of programs and services to where they are most needed. During the demographic surveys, outreach teams directly connected the homeless individuals and families that they encountered to local service providers for assistance.

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Walking with volunteers in Leimert Park to document the homeless. (Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors)

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