Housing for Health

Skid Row Union Rescue (1)

A C3 team conducts outreach in Skid Row. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daniels.

After less than six months on the frontlines of the fight against homelessness, two new initiatives by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) have taken hundreds of people off the streets and into housing. And both are just getting started.

Launched by DHS’ Housing for Health Division in March, C3 – which stands for County + City + Community – deploys teams to Skid Row to offer a variety of services. To date, they have placed 311 people into interim facilities such as shelters, detox facilities, stabilization housing and recuperative care. They have assigned 255 people to permanent supportive housing, 28 of whom have already moved into their own apartments.

Meanwhile, DHS’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center (MLK RCC) in Willowbrook has admitted 49 homeless patients since opening in February. So far, 43 of those patients have been assigned to permanent supportive housing, and eight have been given keys to their new apartment.

“Housing for Health is among the County’s most successful programs for helping the homeless and we need more like it,” said Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas, whose office helped fund C3 together with Supervisor Hilda Solis and Councilman Jose Huizar, and whose district encompasses the MLK RCC. “Its humane and innovative approach not only saves lives but also saves taxpayer money, because giving the homeless a chance to achieve stability, as well as a sound mind and body, means fewer stints in public hospitals and jails, among other savings.”

Housing for Health Director Marc Trotz added, “It is so important that governmental agencies coalesce and move from talk to action and end the health and humanitarian crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles. We know what works and we just have to get down to business and get it done.”

Since its establishment in 2012, Housing for Health has placed almost 1,800 people into permanent supportive housing. In traditional systems, the homeless tend not to be provided housing until they first attain stability and overcome obstacles such as substance addiction. Housing for Health has a different approach that recognizes living in a cardboard box would make sobering up extremely difficult. It starts off with providing decent, safe and affordable housing that includes a range of supportive services.

C3: County + City + Community

Skid Row Hug

A C3 team member gets a grateful hug from one of the homeless on Skid Row. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daniels.

One of Housing for Health’s most recent initiatives, C3 is a collaboration among the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), United Way of Greater Los Angeles, LAMP Community and AmeriCorps. The teams consist of a nurse, mental health specialist, substance abuse counselor, a LAHSA Emergency Response Team member, and two formerly homeless members of AmeriCorps. Each team is responsible for a quadrant of Skid Row, reaching out five days a week to people living on the streets with deteriorating health, untreated mental illnesses, substance addictions, trauma and despair.

To date, C3 has engaged more than 1,000 people across Skid Row, including Melinda, who was homeless for 30 years, struggling with multiple mental health disorders, Hepatitis C and addictions to meth and alcohol. One of the teams got her temporary shelter at the Union Rescue Mission while they prepared her for the move to permanent supportive housing. In May, Melinda was able to move into permanent supportive housing in downtown LA.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center

Another refuge is located at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. At MLK RCC, homeless patients can recover from illness or injury after being discharged from a hospital operated by DHS, such as LAC+USC and Harbor-UCLA Medical Centers. They are provided with all the basic necessities, including interim housing, meals, transportation and various health services over four to six weeks, on average. They are also connected to life skills classes, mental health counseling, substance abuse and other services that would help them transition into permanent supportive housing.

Housing for Health’s goals for the coming year include opening a 50-bed sobering center in Skid Row, where law enforcement, fire departments and C3 teams can send people whose primary issue at the time of contact is severe intoxication. It will be a safe place for chronic alcoholics to sober up and be linked to interventions that help them break out of the destructive cycle through streets, jails and hospitals.