LA County Enhances Shelter Standards

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas surveys a room at the MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook, where homeless patients from hospitals and clinics can recover before being connected to supportive housing. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Bolstering the countywide movement to combat and prevent homelessness, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to establish a new public health permit and licensing requirement to ensure uniform countywide standards for interim housing facilities that serve people experiencing homelessness.

The ordinance is the first element in a three-pronged approach to strengthen the coordinated system of interim housing, which includes: establishing uniform facility standards; implementing service standards across all publicly-funded interim housing; and instituting a uniform grievance and complaint process. These recommendations stem from a six-month collaborative process convened by the County Chief Executive Office/ Homeless Initiative, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Public Health, in conjunction with people who have experienced homelessness, and nonprofit operators of interim housing.

MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

The enactment of this ordinance will allow the Department of Public Health – Environmental Health to implement a new inspection program to ensure that interim housing facilities comply with applicable health and safety requirements, as well as requirements that are specifically tailored to this type of temporary housing. The public health permit ordinance covers 7,700 beds in 327 interim housing facilities, of which 234 are publicly funded and 93 are privately funded.

“My commitment to protecting the health and safety of L.A. County residents extends to individuals who seek temporary shelter in our interim housing facilities,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “As we work to expand interim housing options for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, we must also ensure that new and existing facilities meet health and safety requirements. This ordinance will enable the Department of Public Health to ensure the quality of our interim housing facilities, especially recuperative care housing.”

“With this ordinance, we will ensure that Los Angeles County remains a standard bearer for accountability and performance, especially when it comes to serving the homeless,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the development of uniform shelter standards. “Our goal with Measure H has always been to create communities where everyone can live with dignity and purpose, and this includes shelters and other interim housing facilities.”

“As we expand our interim housing we want to make sure that the buildings reflect the standards we’ve set for achieving our goal of stabilizing the lives of those experiencing homelessness and assisting them in their journey toward permanent homes,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We are expanding interim beds quickly, and we need to ensure quality as well as quantity.”

“Many families who we are working to lift out of homelessness will spend time in interim housing before moving into a permanent home, and we have to ensure that these are clean, safe places to live,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn.

“Ensuring that health and safety standards are met in interim housing facilities improves the wellbeing and long-term outcomes for those attempting to rise out of homelessness,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

MLK Recuperative Care Center in Willowbrook. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.