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.”