L.A. County Engages Tech Industry in the Fight Against Homelessness

The Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office/Homeless Initiative and the Chief Information Office have launched a new initiative to enlist the technology industry in the Countywide effort to prevent and combat homelessness. In a bold move to harness the resources and expertise of tech companies and foster more strategic investment in the sector, L.A. County issued a call for solutions with the potential to creatively accelerate outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. A broad industry representation, including large data and tech companies, civic tech, start-ups, digital services, virtual reality firms and academia, have already signaled their strong interest in partnering on this critical effort, with upwards of 150 participants convened at a recent County-hosted technology innovation forum on homelessness.

The Countywide movement is seeking diverse partners and new approaches to deliver what’s working more effectively and to foster inspired thinking and sustainable solutions around housing, data, customer empowerment and operational effectiveness. Submissions are due mid-November.

“Los Angeles County is partnering with technology companies to harness skills, ideas and innovation that will accelerate and scale up solutions to house people experiencing homelessness,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who championed Measure H. “This is Measure H at work – creating thoughtful and inventive ways to help our most vulnerable residents so that we can create communities with dignity and purpose for all who call Los Angeles home.”

“As L.A. County continues to work to prevent and combat homelessness, we are always working to expand collaborative efforts with new partners who are willing and able to help,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Homelessness is a complex and multi-faceted problem, and partners in the technology industry offer uniquely valuable expertise. L.A. County is leaving no stone unturned, no option unexplored, in the fight to ensure everyone has a home.”

“Combating a homelessness crisis of this magnitude will require that we create partnerships across many sectors,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “Working with stakeholders in the technology sector enables public partners to innovate more quickly and measure their success more effectively.”

“The Homeless Innovation Technology Initiative marries tech talent with the real challenges surrounding homelessness in L.A. County. The tech community is coming together to create tangible innovative solutions,” said Bill Kehoe, Los Angeles County Chief Information Officer.

Homeowners Can Help in the Fight Against Homelessness

The Board of Supervisors is making it easier for homeowners to build or convert existing spaces into Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as “backyard houses” or “granny flats.” The goal: to help increase the region’s seriously depleted housing stock though the development of safe and livable low-cost housing options.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas underscored the importance of ADUs in the fight against homelessness. “Addressing a shortage of more than 550,000 affordable units across Los Angeles County will require the expedient deployment of different types of housing, and ADUs are a great way for single family properties to be part of the solution,” he said. “It puts rent income into homeowners’ pockets, without altering the character of their neighborhoods.”

He recently hosted workshops at the Exposition Park Constituent Service and Training Center for homeowners curious about building, fixing up or legalizing a rental on their property. Click on the links below to learn more.

Seeking to catalyze the community of architects, designers, planners and creative strategists to re-imagine the potential of ADUs, the County’s Art Commission launched Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU in partnership with the County’s Homeless Initiative, Department of Regional Planning and Community, and Development Commission.

In January 2018, it announced the winners of an ADU design competition. Participants included ranged from students to established practitioners, who assembled a tangible index of possibilities that can help policymakers, architects and homeowners implement ADUs in their communities.


Supportive Housing Takes Center Stage at Summit

CSH’s Deborah De Santis, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and United Way’s Elise Buik. Photo by Bryan Chan

More than 1,000 people gathered at the nation’s only summit on supportive housing and heard Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti talk about Los Angeles’ passage of ballot initiatives that will collectively raise an unprecedented $5 billion over a decade to address homelessness.

Since voters approved Measure H and Proposition HHH in late 2016 and early 2017, Los Angeles has become an epicenter of supportive housing activity. This prompted the Corporation for Supportive Housing to select Los Angeles as the host of its 2018 summit, which drew attendees from across the US, as well as Canada and New Zealand. The summit included several interactive sessions designed to encourage dialogue and an exchange of ideas.

During the plenary session, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Garcetti, and United Way CEO Elise Buik participated in a panel entitled Leveraging Local Political Will to Create Supportive Housing.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We simply seek to scale up our consciousness, our compassion, and our capacity to address homelessness.”

Buik said, “I don’t want to see anyone suffer on our streets. We are creating a movement of people who care deeply about this issue and are part of the solution.” Mayor Garcetti added, “We are here to end homelessness.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas championed Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax that seeks to end homelessness for 45,000 people in the first five years, and prevent homelessness for another 30,000 people. Mayor Garcetti championed Proposition HHH, a Los Angeles City bond measure that will finance the construction of 8,00 to 10,000 supportive housing units for the chronically homeless. United Way played a crucial role in the campaign to pass both ballot initiatives.

According to the 2018 Homeless Count, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County has fallen for the first time in four years to 53,195 — a three percent decline.

Supervisors Endorse $5B State Budget Proposal on Homelessness

Homeless encampment. Photo by Mayra Vasquez/Los Angeles County

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors expressed support for a California State Senate budget proposal that would allocate $5 billion over four years to increase the construction of affordable housing and fund immediate and long-term solutions to homelessness.

“While the Governor’s May Revise sets aside a portion of funds for emergency grants, bolder action and more systemic intervention are needed,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “A new Senate budget proposal is a step in the right direction.”

The 2018-2019 Senate Affordable Housing and Homelessness Proposal was approved on May 16th by a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee, and is supported by Senate President Toni Atkins.

The Senate budget proposal includes roughly $2 billion for affordable housing construction, and another $2 billion in funding for programs and housing to address short- and long-term homelessness. It also includes $1 billion over four years for grants to applicant counties to fund interim housing options, rental assistance, capital and operating subsidies.

Even though California’s economy is now the fifth largest in the world, it has an estimated nightly homeless count of 134,278 people, or a quarter of the United States’ homeless population.

California’s crisis of homelessness is occurring against the backdrop of a worsening affordable housing crisis. Governor Jerry Brown’s elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2012 dealt a severe blow to the production of affordable housing statewide. According to the latest Housing Need Report by the California Housing Partnership, the state has a deficit of 1.5 million affordable rental homes – nearly 570,000 in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County confronted its local homeless crisis by implementing Measure H, a quarter-cent special sales tax over 10 years that voters approved in March 2017 to end and prevent homelessness. It is expected to generate approximately $355 million annually to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within five years and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

The County has also strived to address the housing shortfall by setting aside its own General Funds, and leveraging other public funds, to construct affordable and special needs housing through the County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Giving the Gift of Help

Once homeless herself, Shaunte Davis is now helping others get their lives back on track. Thanks to Measure H, she and her fellow “housing navigators” at St. Margaret’s Center in Inglewood help take individuals and families off the streets and into housing. 8