Community Gathers to Address Homelessness

All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

In a community with one of the heaviest concentrations of Los Angeles County’s homeless population, nearly 100 people attended a town hall meeting and job fair for both those looking to help, and those looking for help, amid the crisis.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas kicked off the morning by encouraging attendees to educate, engage, and empower themselves and their communities. The Empowerment Congress’ Human Services Committee hosted the event at AC Bilbrew Library and invited participants to learn about, and make the most of, Measure H, a voter-approved ballot initiative expected to raise $355 million annually over a decade to provide housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness, as well as people at risk of homelessness.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas

“On any given night, 57,000 people in Los Angeles County are experiencing homelessness, and one in three of these individuals resides in the Second Supervisorial District,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “To say there is a great sense of urgency around this issue would be an understatement.”

The County has already taken extraordinary steps prior to the collection of Measure H revenues on October 1, 2017. In February 2016, after an inclusive community process, the County adopted a comprehensive plan with 47 strategies to combat homelessness and invested $100 million in the effort. After voters approved Measure H in March 2017, the County convened a committee of 50 stakeholders to recommend $258 million for ramping up the strategies over the first year.

“Measure H will help us break new ground by providing us with a steady source of funding for all of our Homeless Initiative strategies and more,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas told attendees. “I hope you’ll give serious thought to how you, your family, your organization or your company can be part of this great movement.”

The event featured a plenary session, as well as panel discussions and workshops on a variety of topics, including the demographics of people facing homelessness in the Second District, the social services being funded with Measure H dollars, incentives for landlords willing to rent to people with Section 8 vouchers who are moving off the street, and opportunities for homeowners to build an apartment on their property for the purpose of reducing homelessness.

Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative, gave an overview of the comprehensive strategies the County is pursuing, and opportunities for non-profits to contract with the County and the LA Homeless Services Authority to work on these strategies. The event also featured a job fair since having employment goes a long way towards lifting people out of homelessness. Employers from both the public and private sectors were on hand with job opportunities, as well as opportunities to develop job skills that could lead to economic self-sufficiency and housing stability.

Event co-sponsors included the Service Planning Area 6 Homeless Coalition, a group of homeless services providers, faith-based organizations, and other stakeholders from South LA and the cities of Compton and Lynwood.

LA County’s Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell.