Featured items on homepage for top stories…

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.”

Ending Child Poverty Bus Tour Kick-off

St. Johns CEO and President, Jim Mangia, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Assemblymember Autumn Burke, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in front of the Child Poverty Bus. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

More than 200 people gathered at the Frasyer Clinic Parking Lot of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center (SJWCFC) for the kick-off of the “End Child Poverty Bus Tour.” The tour, led by the “End Child Poverty in California” coalition, for its Los Angeles stop, featured an array of elected officials, community members and leaders, local parents, and anti-poverty advocates. Standing in front of the bus that will carry anti-child poverty advocates all the way to Sacramento, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Gov. Newsom, St. Johns CEO and President, Jim Mangia, and other elected officials and community leaders spoke at length on the moral urgency of confronting child poverty.

“In the words of MLK Jr.: ‘The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.’ The “End Child Poverty Plan” is an important first step to reducing child poverty in our state.” said Los Angeles County Board Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It also directly connects to our efforts in combatting homelessness. It sends a clear message that our work must be bold and our policy agenda must be steady to lift children and families out of poverty.”

“This is a state that is the richest but also the poorest in the nation. When we talk in terms of child poverty, the number of children living below or near the poverty level is nearly than half of the children of this state,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “But we finally have a plan for the millions of Californians who deserve more and we’re talking about implementing this plan in a strategic and nuanced way. This is about doing justice to our ideals.”

State legislation that created the “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force” to develop an anti-poverty plan was released just before Governor Newsom and legislature took their oaths of office in January. The “End Child Poverty in California” Coalition has rallied people and organizations and lobbied elected officials to adopt the Task Force’s End Child Poverty Plan, which would end deep child poverty in just four years when fully implemented. The plan would also reduce overall child poverty by 50 percent over the next decade.

“We are doing this because there almost two million children living in poverty. We are going to change that,” said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. “This is a movement that is powered by a coalition that comes together under the End Child Poverty California coalition that combines the strength of organization and the plan from the Task Force with the wisdom and commitment of elected officials.”

Governor Newsom recently released his May revised budget which includes investments to address deep child poverty. The End Child Poverty Bus Tour’s aim is to highlight this start and create the necessary momentum to pass the Governor’s budget and the End Child Poverty Plan-related legislation this year and next. The coalition on the bus will make stops and hold open press events in Los Angeles, Pomona, Weedpatch, Fresno, Salinas, Oakland, and Sacramento.

Los Angeles County Boosts Investment in Sativa Water District

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas joins state lawmakers at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors voted to pour more resources into Sativa Water District after Los Angeles County Public Works identified the extent of challenges facing Sativa and the level of support required to stabilize the water system and begin providing a more reliable source of clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton until a long-term service provider can take over.

Public Works is also determined to repair Sativa’s relationship with its 6,800 customers, and will host an open house at Sativa headquarters tomorrow, the latest in a series of events to keep the community up-to-date on the progress of their work.

The open house follows a visit today by several state lawmakers looking to Sativa as a model for how to address problems with small and mismanaged water systems across California that may pose a threat to public health.

“Having access to clean and clear water is a basic human right, and one that we are committed to providing Sativa’s customers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for state officials to appoint Public Works as Sativa’s interim administrator in October after decades of mismanagement by the water district’s previous leadership caused episodes of brown water flowing from taps. “No one said this would be easy. But we are committed to course-correcting and making sure Sativa customers are in good hands for the long-term.”

“LA County has officially taken over the troubled Sativa Water District and is starting the hard work of fixing the broken infrastructure and finances that were left behind,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn. “As the interim administrator, we are committed to making every investment necessary to ensure the water coming out of residents’ taps is clean, clear, and safe to drink.”

Speaker Anthony Rendon and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“This has truly been a community effort and I want to recognize the Board of Supervisors for standing with me from the very beginning of this journey,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who championed the legislation required to transfer control of Sativa to the Los Angeles County. He and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Wendy Carrillo, Laura Friedman, Eduardo Garcia and Sydney Kamlager-Dove all participated in the tour of Sativa headquarters, which Speaker Anthony Rendon helped facilitate.

The Board approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn to establish a fund for continuing to operate Sativa, potentially through mid-2021. After conducting a comprehensive assessment of Sativa’s 70-year-old water system, Public Works estimated the cost of serving the water district until a permanent operator is in place could reach $13.8 million, of which $5.7 million will be offset by Sativa’s revenue and state grants.

Public Works expects to identify a long-term service provider early next year, but state regulators could take as long as two years to approve the transition. In the meantime, Public Works Director Mark Pestrella said, “LA County is committed to supplying safe, clean and reliable water to the residents of Willowbrook and Compton.”

Sativa customer Elizabeth Hicks is grateful, saying, “Sativa is improving under the supervision of the County’s Public Works agency. They accomplished within six months a major task that the previous administration couldn’t accomplish in 30 years – we are seeing clear water coming out of our faucets.”

A Budget that Addresses Our Top Priorities

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Los Angeles County’s 2019-2020 Proposed Budget 

“I want to commend the Chief Executive Officer and her staff for their work in recommending a balanced and prudent budget that addresses the major priorities  identified by the Board of Supervisors over the past year.

“While there has been some modest improvement in our locally-generated revenues, it simply is not enough to fund all of the priorities that we have identified to date. It is safe to say that one of the top concerns on the hearts and minds of this Board, and of the people of Los Angeles, is to address the crisis of homelessness.

“Beginning on July 1st, we plan to invest more than ever to confront homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. We recognize, however, that broader economic forces are at work – higher rents and lower incomes.

“Since the homelessness and affordable housing crises are, at their core, an economic problem, the County is also working to invest in the bioscience industry and the creative economy as a method of strengthening communities, increasing individual incomes, and ultimately boosting the resilience of the regional economy.

“While I commend the CEO and her staff for the balanced budget, I know that collectively we have much more work to do to adopt a final budget and identify ongoing funding for the deepening crisis.”

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