Homelessness Summit

IMG_0073Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas laid out his “Vision for Action” at a summit on homelessness conducted by the University of Southern California.

“I will repeat what I have said before: Homelessness is the defining civic issue in the County of Los Angeles, and we need to confront it,” he said during a panel discussion. “We are facing a moral crisis, and a moral crisis demands a moral solution.”

“Instead of averting our eyes, we must see it and know it, and then we must move to address it and overcome it,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “We are doing many things right, but we are not doing enough of it. The fact of the matter is we have to radically scale up all our approaches.”

In February, the Board of Supervisors approved 47 strategies to address homelessness and set aside $100 million to implement it. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called the amount a good start, but not enough.

The County recently conducted a poll to determine whether voters would support a November ballot initiative to raise additional funds. Its results, released over the weekend, showed 76 percent of voters would approve an income tax on people making over a million dollars, while 68 percent would back a sales tax.

“What the poll results show is that voters are willing to work in coordination with the County to improve their neighborhoods and help their neighbors,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Voters understand that stronger communities and improved lives in the future depend on investments today.”

“We at the Board of Supervisors are working diligently to scale up the County’s response but we could not do it without you,” he told the crowd at the summit. “It will take all of us – public and private sectors, and the community – equally yoked together and working together to create a Los Angeles where homelessness is rare and brief.”

USC President C.L. Max Nikias said, “We believe that solutions can only come through close cooperation between academia, government and non-profits across Los Angeles and the surrounding area. It’s an issue that concerns and affects us all, and USC will not be a bystander.”

USC launched the summit on homelessness to engage policymakers, public and private sector leaders, and its own faculty and staff in coming up with ideas to address what Provost Michael Quick calls a “wicked problem.” The summit will provide the basis for more intensive discussion at the Provost’s annual retreat in June 2016, and establish a framework for goals to be achieved by the USC Homeless Initiative over the next two to three years.

A series of panels tackled the current scope of the crisis and initiatives underway to address it; the dire need for supportive services and affordable housing; business and technology solutions; and the role that universities can play in the solution. Panelists included Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, and United Way of Greater of Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik.