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So Much More than a Champion

Kobe Bryant serves as Honorary Chair of the 2011 HomeWalk with 10,000 walkers dedicated to ending homelessness.

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Passing of Kobe Bryant

“This is devastating news and my condolences go out to the entire Bryant family and the loved ones of all lost in this tragic and horrific accident.

“Kobe wasn’t just collectively our region’s favorite NBA player who won five NBA championships for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was so much more than that. He was a cultural ambassador, an icon even on a team and city known for its icons. He inspired the hearts and minds of millions. His legacy will be remembered not only for his pursuits on the court as one of the best, but off the court as a father, an entrepreneur, a producer, and an important voice to end homelessness whose will to succeed symbolized the victory of the human spirit. Our collaboration on HomeWalk to end homelessness will continue to inspire.  He will be missed dearly.”

“To the families of all the lives lost today, know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. May God hold you during this extremely difficult time.”

In Tackling Homelessness, Together We Thrive

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kaiser Permanente Medical Director Dr. Kirk Tamaddon at this year’s Homeless Count. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined thousands of volunteers who fanned out across Los Angeles County over three days to count the homeless population, with the goal of finding out where services are needed most, and ultimately deliver them. This year, he walked the streets of Mid-City, accompanied by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Interim Executive Director Heidi Marston, Kaiser Permanente Medical Director Dr. Kirk Tamaddon, and others. The Supervisor also visited volunteers at the Community Build deployment site in South LA.

“It is our duty to improve lives beyond our own,” the Supervisor said. “We are in a crisis, but should never accept it as the new normal. By volunteering for the Homeless Count, and taking other steps to help our most vulnerable neighbors, we are recommitting ourselves to the belief that we can change the world around us for the better.”

Kaiser Permanente Medical Director Dr. Kirk Tamaddon, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Interim Executive Director Heidi Marston at this year’s Homeless Count. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Kaiser Permanente’s West Los Angeles Medical Center served as the Mid-City deployment site for 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Many of its doctors and other staff were among the volunteers, wearing blue shirts that said “Together We Thrive.”

“For Kaiser Permanente, housing is health,” said Dr. Tamaddon. “Without a safe, stable place to call home, it is nearly impossible to focus on basic health and medical needs. We know that chronic homelessness substantially reduces a person’s life expectancy, increases the risk of disease, and poses public health risks. Safe and stable housing is key to a person’s physical, mental and social health.  As one of the nation’s largest nonprofit integrated health care systems, Kaiser Permanente has a responsibility to support health at every opportunity, including efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing and reduce homelessness and housing instability.”

Kaiser Permanente was also the first private sector contributor to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s newly announced fund to combat homelessness in the state. When the Governor created the $750 million California Access to Housing and Services Fund, he called on corporate and philanthropic organizations to invest in it as well. Kaiser Permanente immediately responded, pledging $25 million. This commitment builds  on the $200 million in impact investments that Kaiser Permanente has announced in recent years in support of community health, mainly focusing on affordable housing. It also complements ongoing sustainable rapid-housing programs and efforts to strengthen systems that can end chronic homelessness.

“Chronic homelessness has been shown to cut 27 years from the average life span and is associated with communicable diseases such as hepatitis and typhus, increased hospitalizations, and frequent readmissions,” Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Greg Adams said. “Safe and stable housing is key to a person’s physical, mental and social health, so we applaud the governor’s plan to address homelessness. Our investment in the fund aligns with Kaiser Permanente’s overall strategy to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of existing residents, while addressing the root causes of homelessness in our communities.”

Volunteers at the Community Build deployment site in South LA. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count began in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, then moved on to East and West Los Angeles, before wrapping up at the Antelope Valley and Metro and South Los Angeles.

Last year’s count indicated that the number of people experiencing homelessness across the county at the time rose to 59,000, 27,000 of them unsheltered. Despite the increase, the homeless services system helped more people than ever before. Residents exited homelessness over 21,000 times and more than 75,000 people received services, including prevention, outreach, shelters, and permanent supportive housing. More than 31,000 completed all the steps to access housing—but could not find a space to move into.

“Homelessness is dynamic. It changes day over day, year over year and everyone’s path is different. Conducting this count helps us better understand the needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness so that we can align our resources to best address those needs,” said Heidi Marston, Interim Executive Director of LAHSA. “Given the current crisis on our streets, the data collected during the count is more important than ever.”

2020 Homeless Count volunteers at Kaiser Permanente’s West Los Angeles Medical Center, which served as LAHSA’s Mid-City deployment site. . Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Board Takes Historic Step Towards Granting Civilian Bodies Subpoena Power

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hears important feedback from the community advocating for enhanced oversight of law enforcement on January 21, 2020. Photo by Bryan Chan.

 

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors (Board) took important steps to create the Probation Oversight Commission and strengthen oversight of the Sheriff’s Department by giving new tools to the Civilian Oversight Commission and the Inspector General. Once adopted at next week’s Board meeting on January 28, the civilian bodies overseeing the Probation and Sheriff’s departments will each have the ability to subpoena documents or testimony.

The creation of a Probation Oversight Commission (POC) with unprecedented authority follows a year-long public process to gather community recommendations and a unanimously passed motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis from October 1, 2019 (motion) The POC will be endowed with all the authority currently vested in the existing Probation Commission, as well as new powers, including the ability to conduct facility inspections, establish an independent grievance process, conduct investigations through the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and compel information by issuing subpoenas. The commission, which will be composed of nine appointed members, has designated seats for the formerly justice system-involved, family members of probation clients, and experts in juvenile justice and legal defense.

Advocates for probation reform came out in strong support of the creation of this robust oversight body, and in a letter submitted by prominent organizations like Community Coalition, Public Counsel, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Children’s Defense Fund – California and Youth Justice Coalition, noted, “The urgent need  for a strong POC cannot be understated, as the Department continues to face massive challenges and major transitions.” Nicole Brown, a policy representative from the Urban Peace Institute and representative of Youth Uprising Coalition who submitted the letter, testified that, “We appreciate the motion and the fact that it grants the POC subpoena power.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who has consistently led on Probation reform during his tenure on the Board and was the lead author in creating the POC, added, “For years, the Board has spoken loud and clear about the need to enact robust oversight of the Probation Department. Creating the POC is nothing short of game-changing, as is giving the ability to compel data, documents, and direct testimony. Probation reform is the order of the day, and stronger oversight will help us get there.”

The Board similarly took an unprecedented step towards strengthening oversight of the Sheriff’s Department, by moving forward with modifying the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) to give the COC authority to direct the issuing of subpoenas. These changes, stemming from a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Kuehl in October 2019 (motion), will grant the COC access to Sheriff’s Department data, documents, and direct testimony, including the authority – through a majority vote by the COC – to compel their production through the issuance of subpoenas by the OIG. This change comes after months of difficulty in obtaining information from the Sheriff’s Department, which has stymied both the COC and OIG’s ability to perform their core function of oversight, as highlighted at last week’s COC meeting.

“The County cannot afford to erase the progress that has been achieved under recent reform efforts of the Sheriff’s Department. Backtracking is not an option; returning to the day of rampant abuse in the jails, or of scandals hidden from the public, cannot happen under our watch. Oversight is a critical part of reform and the County’s oversight bodies – for the Sheriff and Probation department – need timely access to information.” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted.

“Over the past three years as executive director of the Civilian Oversight Commission, I have learned that the Commission is only effective when we have access to information,” said Brian Williams, Executive Director of the COC. He added, “Obtaining this information has not always been easy. Subpoena power will help us in our efforts to provide solid oversight of the LASD and will go a long way toward increasing the level of transparency of the Sheriff’s department and repairing relationships with the community. This is an important day for the Commission.”

In addition to taking steps on the POC and COC, yesterday the Board also moved to modify the OIG’s ordinance to give enhanced authority to perform various functions for oversight of the Sheriff’s Department while giving it a new role overseeing the Probation Department.

Dozens of community stakeholders, who have been advocating for enhanced oversight of law enforcement, came out in support of the ordinances.

These ordinances will come back to the Board next week for the second and final reading. Once adopted, they will go into effect in 30 days.

Willowbrook Goes Green with New Solar Panels

The Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus is now home to approximately 4,000 solar panels at the top of both parking structures in addition to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

These panels are expected to be operational by the end of February 2020 and are anticipated to save the County over $3 million in energy costs over the next 25 years.

Solar panel installation at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital.

The EV charging stations installed on the campus are meant to encourage both patients and employees to drive clean vehicles, which will help reduce fossil fuel use and air pollution. The parking lot solar canopies will also serve as shade structures that keep cars cooler when parked on the top floor of the parking garage.

Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted its first countywide sustainability plan, Ourcounty (ourcountyla.org), which is focused around the themes of resilience, sustainability, and equity.  The implementation of this green infrastructure in Willowbrook is one of many environmentally-sustainable projects happening in the Second District and across the County.

Just down the street, construction is well underway at Magic Johnson Park, where $75 million is being invested in a transformation of the park, which will include a new sustainable-designed community center as well as a water quality project where stormwater will be collected from the surrounding area, cleaned, and used to fill the lake and irrigate the park.

Mounting an Urgent Response to the Emergency that is Homelessness

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in Sacramento visits one of the State-owned travel trailers committed by Governor Gavin Newsom to house the homeless. Photo by Carl Costas.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors ordered the development of a road map for implementing a Comprehensive Crisis Response Strategy in Los Angeles County that would rapidly provide housing or shelter for people currently living on the streets who are ready and willing to come indoors.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, accompanied by State officials, visit State-owned travel trailers in Sacramento committed by Governor Gavin Newsom to serve as interim shelters for the homeless. Photo by Carl Costas.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas immediately followed up with a separate motion, also approved by the Board, identifying specific locations for 30 trailers that Governor Gavin Newsom has committed to deploying to Los Angeles County as part of his Executive Order, issued on Jan. 8. The motion calls for deploying the trailers in public and privately-owned parking lots in South LA within days to serve as interim housing for families.

“The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority tells us that, right now, there are 30,000 people across Los Angeles County who have been assessed and are ready and willing to be housed,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We need a framework that makes sure each of them has a safe place to go — and soon. This means getting rid of any red tape and other unnecessary impediments so that we can expedite housing and services.”

The Comprehensive Crisis Response motion complements Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order, his proposal to invest $1.4 billion next year to address homelessness, and the recommendations of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, co-chaired by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. Elements of the Governor’s plan had been inspired by programs in Los Angeles County.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, in a letter to the Board of Supervisors, expressed “strong support” for the motion, saying it “would provide Los Angeles County with the framework it needs to effectively implement priority elements of the Council’s recommendations and create greater capacity to ensure housing or shelter for people ready and willing to move indoors.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with community advocates, business leaders and nonprofit service providers who testified in favor of his Comprehensive Crisis Response motion. L-R: Herb Hatanaka, Special Service for Groups; Hilary Aquino, Exodus Recovery; Reba Stevens, Mental Health Commission and LAHSA Lived Experience Advisory Board; Jeanette Christian, Senator Feinstein’s Office; Sanjit Mahanti, Akido Labs; Charlene Dimas-Peinado, Wellnest; Royalty Gayle; Rita Speck, Kaiser Permanente; Olivia Lee, LA Chamber of Commerce; LaRae Cantley, LAHSA Lived Experience Advisory Board; Sarah Dusseault, LAHSA Commission; Philip Feder, Paul Hastings. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supevisors

Senator Feinstein added, “I pledge to continue working for additional federal resources to help provide housing and additional services for those experiencing homelessness. As Californians, we must continue to work together and invest in solutions that ensure we have the resources to fight this epidemic.”

“We have to treat the homeless crisis with the urgency that it demands,” said Supervisor Hahn. “I don’t want to continue to rely on the same old policies and practices that are working too slowly. We need our own Marshall Plan here in LA County so that we can provide shelter and housing to anyone and everyone who is willing to come inside, and we need the flexibility to do it as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

At the State Capitol, Governor Gavin Newsom receives the recommendations of his Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, co-chaired by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. Photo by Carl Costas.

“As a member of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, I support Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ and Supervisor Hahn’s motion to act on the Council’s recommendations,” said Sharon Rapport, associate director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing. “The Council’s recommendations would put California on a path to become a national leader in solving homelessness. It would treat the over 151,000 Californians experiencing homelessness as if their lives are at risk, because they are. This motion signals to our State leaders and to other jurisdictions that Los Angeles County continues to lead on this issue and to be accountable for results. I appreciate the Board’s strong action to promote local and state commitment and investment toward ending homelessness.”

“As a board member of A Community of Friends, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing, we applaud the Supervisors’ effort to end homelessness,” said Philip Feder, partner at Paul Hastings law firm. ” More needs to be done to provide for the right of all individuals to permanent housing and the obligation of the state and federal governments to provide the funding and to end bureaucratic hurdles to building that housing.”

“This is the right approach: creativity and flexibility in approach,but focus and accountability on the bottom line – helping all our friends outside have a place to call home,” said Chris Ko, managing director for homelessness and strategic initiatives at the nonprofit United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

The Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, co-chaired by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg meet in Sacramento to submit their recommendations to the Governor. Photo by Carl Costas.

The Comprehensive Crisis Response motion:

  • Instructs County departments, led by the County CEO’s Homeless Initiative and Office of Emergency Management, to study the Governor’s Council recommendations to create a framework for prioritizing and implementing strategies that would build greater capacity and accountability to ensure housing and services for Los Angeles County’s homeless population who are ready and willing to move indoors.
  • Asks for 60-day report-back on an accountability framework related to a legal mandate for Los Angeles County to increase its capacity to provide housing and services;
  • Supports the Governor’s Executive Order and his $1.4-billion budget proposal for addressing homelessness, and explores additional legislation.

More than 1,000 homeless people died on Los Angeles County streets last year, a trend that is likely to continue unless solutions for more immediate shelter and housing can be found. In their recommendations, the 13-member Governor’s Council emphasized that “urgency should drive our response” and that homelessness must be viewed as “a humanitarian crisis tantamount to any sustained natural disaster.”