SPECTRUM: Tackling Homelessness in LA and Beyond

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – With the alarming statewide spike in homelessness that’s impacted California over the past decade, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a new task force to tackle the management of this crisis. The governor has also pledged $1 billion in state funding toward tackling the epidemic.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is co-chairing the governor’s task force. The supervisor dropped by The Beat on 1 to offer his insights into what’s behind the startling increase in homelessness, and what we can do to help solve the problem.

For the original story and video, click here.

Governor Appoints Supervisor to Statewide Homelessness Task Force

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joins Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials for an announcement on the states’ efforts to address the homelessness crisis, at the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center in Oakland, Calif, on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Michael Short/Board of Supervisors)

Governor Gavin Newsom Announces the Formation of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force

New Task Force will be co-chaired by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Announcement comes after the Governor’s May budget revision included $1 billion to fight California’s homelessness crisis

Just days after Bay Area counties released their homeless point-in-time figures showing significant increases in their homeless populations, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the formation of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force and its co-chairs, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Earlier this month, the Governor released his May budget revision which included an unprecedented $1 billion to fight California’s homelessness crisis. The budget would increase emergency aid for local jurisdictions, make money available to cities and counties directly, and fund permanent supportive housing or innovative approaches like motel and hotel conversions.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. (Michael Short/Board of Supervisors)

“No Californian can say homelessness is someone else’s problem – it affects us all,” said Governor Newsom. “Homelessness is a matter of statewide concern, but solutions will come from the local level. Mayors, County Supervisors and City Councils around the state are working hard to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes. We’ll be watching these local and regional solutions closely, to lend a hand and help them scale.”

The Governor announced the new Task Force after touring a hotel conversion site in downtown Oakland that is now the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center transitional housing facility. Standing alongside Mayor Steinberg, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, the Governor met with formerly homeless individuals and underscored the importance of state-local partnerships to combat homelessness.

“The growing problem of homelessness is nothing less than a humanitarian, public health, safety and economic crisis facing California,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “I’m looking forward to working closely with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and the administration of Gov. Newsom to develop comprehensive recommendations for how we can get thousands of people off the streets and into housing, and also help prevent thousands more from slipping into homelessness.”

The Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force will meet a number of times throughout the year in cities and counties around the state to observe best practices firsthand and receive input from governments and constituents statewide to propose solutions to address the homelessness epidemic. The Governor will announce additional members of the Task Force and future meeting dates and locations in the coming weeks.

“I look forward to partnering with California Governor Gavin Newsom, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and other members of this Task Force to ensure that the State of California steps up its efforts in confronting the defining civic and moral crises of our time,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It is time for all levels of government to intensify our efforts, and take urgent and swift action to combat homelessness.”

The Governor also named psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Tom Insel as a key advisor providing insight in developing strategies to address mental health issues. Dr. Insel is a nationally recognized leader in the science of mental health and evidence-based practices to assist people suffering from various conditions. Working with Secretary Ghaly, Dr. Insel will inform the state’s work as California builds the mental health system of tomorrow, serving people whether they are living in the community, on the streets or if they are in jails, schools or shelters. Dr. Insel served as director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) committed to research on mental disorders. Prior to serving as NIMH director, Dr. Insel was a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, where he was founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta. Dr. Insel led the Mental Health Team at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) in South San Francisco and, most recently, has served as co-founder and president of Mindstrong Health. Dr. Insel is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Homelessness is a matter of statewide concern most efficiently and effectively addressed at the local level through deep regional collaboration. The Task Force will consult with local and regional governments around the state to assess best practices and strategies to increase the production of Navigation Centers, positive housing exits and information sharing. The Task Force should guide local governments as they develop joint regional plans to address homelessness.

The Task Force will deliver at least one annual report to the Governor on the work it performed to guide the creation of joint regional plans to address homelessness, including highlighting best practices and model programs at the local level.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joins Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials for an announcement on the states’ efforts to address the homelessness crisis, at the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center in Oakland, Calif, on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Michael Short/Board of Supervisors)

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on his Appointment as Co-Chair of the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force.

“I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to serve as co-chair of the recently formed Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force.

“I look forward to partnering with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to ensure that the State of California plays a pivotal role in confronting the defining civic and moral crises of our time. It is time for all levels of government to take urgent and swift action to combat homelessness.

“Los Angeles County is the epicenter of these crises, accounting for about 40 percent of the state’s homeless population. In 2017, we declared a state of emergency and won voter approval of Measure H, creating an unprecedented funding stream for addressing homelessness. But given the dire shortage of affordable housing, the situation remains tenuous.

“I applaud the Governor for stepping up to the plate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Task Force.”

LA County Invests $460M to Fight Homelessness

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with street outreach workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against homelessness. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $460-million spending plan for fiscal year 2019-2020 to widen and intensify its fight against homelessness.  The five-member board unanimously adopted dozens of recommendations for the third-year budget of Measure H, the voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax dedicated exclusively to providing services and programs to prevent homelessness and combat the County’s homelessness crisis.

“Today’s Measure H budget reflects the County’s strong commitment to confront this deepening and dynamic crisis head-on in spite of serious headwinds that hinder our progress,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “It will take bold investments and unwavering partnership at all levels of government and society.  We must make it work for the good of this county and the sake of our very moral fiber.  There will be no retreat as we battle to get Everyone In.”

The newly-adopted budget expands on spending priorities adopted by the Supervisors in the first two years of Measure H and targets a number of critical strategies in the County’s comprehensive Homeless Action Plan. This investment includes $126 million for shelter/interim housing, $85.4 million for rapid   re-housing, $77.3 million for permanent supportive housing, $28.4 million for outreach and $23 million for prevention.

In concert with the funding plan, the Board passed a series of motions to maximize its impact, including:

  • Responding to the Homeless Count (Sups. Hahn, Solis) – A board Directive for the Homeless Initiative to analyze the forthcoming 2019 Homeless Count results and report on its implications for the allocation of State and Measure H funding and potential recommendations to shift Measure H funding within its strategies and use new State funding as needed.
  • Maximizing Investment in Housing Innovation (Sups. Kuehl, Hahn) – Calling for an assessment of the Housing Innovation Challenge and a potential shift of $3.3 million to the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool to generate more innovative housing.
  • And two motions to potentially redirect $1.3 million from the Homeless Initiative Technology Innovations Request for Proposals (which has potential alternate funding sources) to two programs:
  • Peer Navigators for Homeless College Students (Sups. Hahn, Solis) – $700,000 to Enhanced Services for Transition Age Youth for peer navigators who will locate housing opportunities and services for homeless students at all community colleges in the County.
  • Mobile Shower Expansion Program (Sups. Hahn, Solis) – $600,000 to the Countywide Outreach System to increase access to mobile showers for people experiencing homelessness and to cover the costs to operate the showers countywide.

The County’s unprecedented investment was reinforced at the State level as Governor Newsom’s revised budget aims to double State spending on homelessness to $1 billion.

Measure H is making a difference

Thousands of homeless individuals and family members have been helped by Measure H and the County is on track to meet the initial five-year goal of Measure H to provide permanent housing for 45,000 family members and individuals.

The system is helping more people than ever before. Among the most important successes in the first 21 months of Measure H-funded work (July 2017 – March 2019)  – 14,241 individuals and family members have been permanently housed as a result of Measure H strategies and 28,458 individuals and family members entered crisis, bridge and interim housing funded in whole or in part by Measure H.

Kirk Slaughter, who had experienced homelessness for four years and now lives in supportive housing, shared his experience. “I’m an actual person that represents these statistics.  Before I was homeless I had a life…I was a grad student from USC, I was working, I paid my taxes.  But due to bipolar disorder, substance abuse and wrong choices, my life took a turn.  Just six months ago I was living under a bridge.  But my case manager and her team pulled me up and got me into emergency housing – and now I have my own place with a key.  I’m going to re-enter society and I am a changed man thanks to all of you.”

The number of people falling into homelessness is far outpacing these record housing placements, driven primarily by high rents, unjust evictions and a significant shortage of affordable housing units for low-income renters.

Building on the Board’s prior actions to extend and expand rent control in unincorporated L.A. County, today the Board passed a motion in support of two bills by the State legislature to protect renters from unforeseen and unaffordable rent increases, as well as evictions without just cause.  The Board (Motion by Sups. Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas) lent its support to AB 1481 (Bonta), which would help curb unjust evictions by prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without just cause; and AB 1482 (Chiu), which would prohibit rent gouging, guarding against the most drastic and disruptive rent increases in places where tenants have no other protection.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks in front of the Hall of Administration to discuss the Year 3 Measure H spending Plan and actions to address the rental affordability crisis. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

“This problem did not happen overnight and we are not going to solve it overnight,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “But I shudder to think about how many more people would be on the streets tonight if not for the generosity of LA County voters who supported Measure H. This crisis is unprecedented, but today we are addressing it with unprecedented resources.”

“It is critical that our strategies funded by Measure H are responsive to the evolving needs of our homeless residents and the general public,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “The pivots we will make in the upcoming year around prevention and employment represent proactive solutions to curb the inflow into homelessness, which is a critical piece of combating the County’s crisis.”

“By empowering cities, service providers, developers, landlords, and community-based organizations to effectively access and utilize County resources, we can work together to lift individuals and families out of homelessness,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Rent stabilization, tenant protections, mobile showers, identifying interim and bridge housing, increased construction of affordable units, enhanced training for law enforcement, and additional support for our cities’ homelessness plans are just some tools being used to address all facets of this crisis. While the County and our partners have been successful at placing thousands of people into permanent housing, today’s $460 million investment in homelessness prevention and services will help many more of our residents over the next year.”

“This Board has shown great unanimity in working to help people who have lost their homes get back into housing, but our work can’t simply be about helping people who have already become homeless,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We have to go upstream and prevent people from becoming homeless.  The Board’s approval today means that the Homeless Initiative will make unprecedented investments in prevention, as well as investments in outreach, supportive housing, rapid re-housing and bridge housing.”

Watch today’s press conference here:  https://bit.ly/2Vqv1hp

State Steps Up in Fight Against Homelessness

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Governor Gavin Newsom’s Proposal to Double State Spending on Homelessness to $1 Billion

“Leadership matters. With initial data pouring in from across the State indicating that this crisis is getting worse, not better, it’s great to see that the Governor is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Combatting homelessness requires not just resolve but investment. Los Angeles County is building a robust safety net th‎rough Measure H, and these additional dollars will be a game changer in our mission to get Everyone In.”

Statement on Emerging Trends in Homeless Count Data Across California

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with LA Family Housing CEO Stephanie Klasky-Gamer during the annual homeless count with LA Homeless Services Authority. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“The bottom line is that there is no retreat and there is no room for complacency. It’s irrefutable that far too many Angelenos live on the streets. But this a marathon, not a sprint, and we are committed to staying the course to build a robust and nimble safety net to get ahead of this epidemic. As we see dramatic upswings in the number of homeless people in counties across Southern California, we must be grateful for Measure H because, without it, the numbers would undoubtedly be even more dire. We must stay all in to get everyone in.”