KPCC’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle: Sheltering the Homeless

KPCC’s Air Talk with Larry Mantle interviewed Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-chairs of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force, on a “right to shelter” — or a “right to housing” — to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis that has plagued the Golden State.

Listen to the full broadcast here.

File photo: Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo by Michael Short/Board of Supervisors.

KPCC: Services for the Homeless in South LA

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis prepare to give KPCC’s A Martinez a tour of homeless services in South Los Angeles. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

Reposted from KPCC’s Take Two with A Martinez

There’s a homelessness crisis in Southern California. The problem was put into focus earlier this month when the results of the annual homeless census came out. The population is up 12 percent throughout L.A. County compared to last year. And for many Angelenos, the evidence is on the sidewalks and in the alleys of their own neighborhoods with people sleeping on the street or setting up makeshift tents. So today, we want to look at a piece that many people don’t see up close — the attempted solutions. That takes us to a place in South LA called the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System. Listen to the full broadcast here.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and KPCC’s A Martinez with HOPICS Director Veronica Lewis and members of her team, including street outreach workers. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

NBC: Homeless Youth Helped by Measure H

Reposted from NBC News.

Homelessness in Los Angeles County spiked by 12 percent over the past year to reach an estimated 58,936 people, according to figures released June 4.

Click here to see the results of the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which ties the increase to the region’s housing costs outpacing wages and forcing people onto the streets faster than authorities can find them shelter.

According to figures released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, nearly three-quarters of homeless people are living in cars, tents, makeshift shelters or on the streets without any apparent cover from the elements.

“We have the largest unsheltered population in the nation and one of the largest homeless counts across America. Only New York has more people experiencing homelessness on any given night,” according to LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn.

The city of Los Angeles saw a 16 percent increase in its numbers.

The estimates aren’t just to illustrate the extent of the problem. They’re used to help allocate state and federal resources. Much of the count happened at night. In areas that were difficult to reach, like river beds, law enforcement helped out.

Though the number of chronically homeless individuals has increased by 17 percent, demographers and statisticians responsible for the count said they believe the real issue is the inflow of newly homeless people.

Phil Ansell, who runs the county’s Homeless Initiative said it may seem counterintuitive, but “a booming economy can actually lead to an increase in homelessness.”

He said that in a growing economy, rental rates have outpaced wages, particularly for people living at the margins and making minimum wage. A minimum-wage employee would have to work 79 hours a week at $13.25 per hour to afford the rent in an average one-bedroom apartment, Lynn said.

The numbers are up despite tens of thousands of people who have moved off the streets and into permanent housing. In the last year alone, the county has helped 21,631 people find permanent homes and another 27,080 who were homeless at some point during the year were able to lift themselves out of homelessness, according to the data.

But officials say more needs to be done to increase the supply of affordable housing and prevent other families from falling into homelessness. Los Angeles County officials said they are adding strategies geared at combating economic factors. When the Board of Supervisors approved $460 million in Measure H spending on homelessness three weeks ago, it focused on finding ways to offset rising rental rates and provide opportunities for steady employment through an employment task force and jobs training program.

County officials have backed a bill to speed conversions of motels into supportive housing units and is considering housing homeless veterans at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall downtown, among other local efforts to increase the amount of shelter space, bridge housing and permanent supportive housing units.

The county has also put a 3 percent cap on rental increases in unincorporated areas and is backing statewide legislation to limit rents and prevent landlords from unjustly evicting tenants. However, California voters rejected a 2018 proposal to give local governments more latitude to enact rent controls.

There is a pipeline of more than 10,000 affordable units, but only 1,397 are on track to be available in fiscal year 2019-20. However, Ansell said the state can take action immediately on three key issues that could help alleviate the problem sooner, including pending legislation prohibiting rent gouging, evictions without cause and discrimination against renters with housing subsidies.

CNN: Staggering homeless count stuns LA officials

Reposted from

The stunning increase in homelessness announced in Los Angeles this week — up 16% over last year citywide — was an almost incomprehensible conundrum given the nation’s booming economy and the hundreds of millions of dollars that city, county and state officials have directed toward the problem.

But the homelessness crisis gripping Los Angeles is one that has been many years in the making with no easy fix. It is a problem driven by an array of complex factors, including rising rents, a staggering shortage of affordable housing units, resistance to new shelters and housing developments in suburban neighborhoods, and, above all, the lack of a cohesive safety net for thousands of people struggling with mental health problems, addiction and, in some cases, recent exits from the criminal justice system that have left them with no other options beyond living on the streets.

“It is the height of contradiction that in the midst of great prosperity across the Golden State, we are also seeing unprecedented increases in homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a key proponent of the 2017 county sales tax known as Measure H that is raising about $355 million annually for homelessness services over ten years.

CNN Reporter Maeve Rueston interviews Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at Tiki Apartments. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

“This data is stunning from the perspective that we had hoped that things would be trending differently, but we will not ignore our realities,” Ridley-Thomas said after the numbers were released. “No one can ignore the income insecurity, the financial stress that is being experienced throughout the population. … This is a state that is the wealthiest in the nation, and, at the same time, it is the most impoverished.”

The new homeless count released Tuesday by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed nearly 59,000 people living in the streets across Los Angeles County, a 12% increase over the prior year; and 36,300 homeless people within the city limits of LA, a 16% increase over last year’s count.

Playground at Mosaic Gardens in Willowbrook. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

While those figures were shocking to many Americans who view Los Angeles mainly as a city of glittering wealth, they came as less of a surprise to millions of Angelenos.

For several years now, the city’s residents have watched tent encampments spring up far beyond the downtown area known as Skid Row — where LA’s homeless population and services have historically been concentrated — to their neighborhood sidewalks, freeway embankments, city and county parks, along business corridors and into some of the most affluent neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Beyond the well-being of the city’s homeless population, the encampments have raised a broad array of public heath and safety concerns. Los Angeles Fire Department officials determined, for example, that the massive Skirball blaze that burned homes in Bel-Air and torched the hillsides along the 405 freeway in December 2017 was sparked by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment nearby.

In and around Skid Row, scores of business owners who warehouse their goods in that industrial area downtown have pressed the city to do more about the rising number of tent fires. In one of the most frightening developments, some of the fires are being lit by gang members who try to collect rent from tent-dwellers on certain blocks, according to law enforcement officials and homeless people living in tents interviewed by CNN.



Homeless crisis demands action on housing, mental health, evictions

Left to Right: Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and California Governor Gavin Newsom. (Michael Short/Board of Supervisors)

California boasts a powerhouse economy that would rank fifth in the world if we were a country. Our state boasts an immense concentration of wealth: A million millionaires live here.

But we also have the nation’s highest poverty rate. One in 5 Californians is struggling to get by.

Looking at our extreme income inequality, and some of the highest housing prices in the United States, it’s not hard to see why homelessness has become our state’s most significant catastrophe.

Every week, it seems there are more tents massed under freeway overpasses in California cities, more people huddled in downtown doorways, and more people living in their cars.

In 2018, California’s homeless population numbered about 130,000, a 13% increase from 2016. The latest count conducted in communities statewide in January has ominous results: a 22% increase in Riverside County, 23% in San Bernardino County, 43% in Orange County and 50% in Kern County. In Los Angeles County, the increase is 12%.

We estimate that about a third of the homeless population suffers from mental illness, and about one-fifth with substance use. To aid these individuals, many of whom have experienced homelessness for years, we are building a robust safety net. This is possible based on efforts like Los Angeles’ Measure H, which dedicates a portion of sales tax for homeless services, and No Place Like Home, a statewide initiative that’s expediting affordable housing development for mentally ill individuals.

But in a state which accounts for a quarter of our nation’s homeless, we can’t ignore that more than half are living outdoors. New York State has a large homeless population, about 92,000 people, but only 5% lack any form of shelter. Why the stark contrast?

New York invests in first getting people off the streets with a comprehensive shelter system. While California has been focused on building more permanent housing, we must pay equal and urgent attention to first getting people indoors as a key step to long-term stability.

We applaud the decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom to establish the Homeless & Supportive Housing Task Force and to include $1 billion in his proposed budget to address the issue. His proposal includes $650 million that would go directly to communities, including $275 million for the state’s most populous cities, to use for temporary shelters that surround residents with the services they need to stabilize and transition to permanent housing.

By quickly moving people through these shelters and into housing, we can start to make a real dent in the numbers of people sleeping outside.

But all of our hard work getting people into shelter will be futile if we see them replaced on our streets by those forced out of their homes by stark economics.

These are the Californians who park our cars, clean our buildings, prepare our coffee, and even teach our kids. Zillow research shows that a typical renter in Los Angeles is paying almost half their income toward housing costs. They are our neighbors, and they are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Far too often, they are one medical emergency, car repair, or rent increase away from falling into homelessness.

To address this, we must pursue scaled-up, sustainable approaches to prevent Californians from falling into homelessness in the first place.

We simply must produce more housing across California, and it must be housing of all types. California has a deficit of 1.5 million affordable rental homes.

We know that red tape stifles production, so we must look seriously at reforming state and local laws to make it easier to build the housing we desperately need. We should challenge our local entitlement departments to dramatically reduce the turn-around times for review and permitting.

We must also preserve affordable housing options for individuals and families before they are priced out. This means making sure that rents stay affordable, while promoting wealth-building within diverse communities of color that have been disenfranchised for far too long.

At the state level, this means allocating more tax credits to support the refinancing of projects to extend affordability covenants. At the local level, grant and loan programs should be set up for small property owners, helping them pay for essential home improvements, as long as they commit to keeping the rent affordable.

We must also protect residents from drastic rent increases and unlawful evictions through state legislation aimed at preventing rent gouging and evictions without just cause. Locally, we must support robust Right to Counsel programs to help defend renters from unjust evictions.

New York has seen great success: in the first year of establishing a Right to Counsel program, of the 22,000 New Yorkers represented by attorneys, 84% were able to remain in their homes. Small property owners should also be able to tap into this fund to help resolve renter conflicts.

Lastly, we need to partner to ensure that Californians are deeply moved by this humanitarian crisis to support diverse housing solutions in their neighborhoods. It is our moral imperative to produce more homes, preserve affordability of our housing stock, and protect our residents who are at risk of eviction.

There is no retreat, there is no room for complacency, and there can be no conscientious objectors in this battle to house all Californians. If we’re going to get everyone in, we have to be all in.

Darrell Steinberg is the mayor of Sacramento and the principal author of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act of 2004. Mark Ridley-Thomas is supervisor for Los Angeles County’s Second District and the principal author of Measure H, Los Angeles County’s Homeless Services and Prevention Act of 2017.

Published in the San Francisco Chronicle.