On Tuesday, February 9th, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve and adopt the County Homeless Initiative, a truly comprehensive plan representing the largest, most coordinated effort ever undertaken in LA to attack the root causes of homelessness, and move thousands of individuals and families from the streets to dignity and stability.
Last August, the Board launched the Homeless Initiative to combat the homeless crisis. The initial objective of the Initiative was to develop and present to the Board of Supervisors these recommended County strategies.
To develop the recommended strategies, the Homeless Initiative conducted 18 policy summits on nine topics from October 1 to December 3, 2015, which brought together 25 County departments, 30 cities and other public agencies, and hundreds of community partners and stakeholders.
These policy summits resulted in 47 recommended strategies divided into six areas, each key to combating homelessness:
A. Prevent Homelessness
Combating homelessness requires effective strategies to reduce the number of families and individuals who become homeless, in addition to helping currently homeless families and individuals move into permanent housing. This includes reducing both the number of individuals who are discharged into homelessness from institutions such as jails, hospitals, and foster care and the number of families and individuals who lose their housing and become homeless.
B. Subsidized Housing
Almost all homeless families and individuals lack sufficient income to pay rent on an ongoing basis, particularly given the extremely high cost of market-rate housing in Los Angeles County. In this context, subsidizing rent and related housing costs is key to enabling homeless families and individuals to secure and retain permanent housing and to preventing families and individuals from becoming homeless. Given the scarcity of both federal and local funding for housing subsidies, it is critical that available subsidies be matched effectively to the needs of a particular family or individual.
C. Increase Income
Most currently homeless families and individuals have the ability to increase their income to the point where they will be able to pay for their own housing in the future if they secure the assistance they need to do so. A high percentage of homeless adults can increase their income through employment; severely disabled homeless individuals can increase their income through federal disability benefits. Enabling a high percentage of homeless adults to pay for their own housing is key to combating homelessness.
D. Provide Case Mangement and Services
Most homeless families and individuals need some level of case management and supportive services to secure and maintain permanent housing, though the specific need varies greatly, depending on the individual circumstances. The availability of appropriate case management and supportive services is key to enabling homeless families and individuals to take advantage of an available rental subsidy, increase their income, and access/utilize available public services and benefits.
E. Create a Coordinated System
Given their complex needs, homeless individuals, families and youth often are clients of multiple County departments, city agencies and community-based providers. For the most part, services are not well coordinated; this fragmentation is often compounded by disparate eligibility requirements, funding streams, and bureaucratic processes. Maximizing the efficacy of current programs and expenditures requires a coordinated system which brings together homeless and mainstream services. The extension of Medi-Cal to single adults through the Affordable Care Act, the County’s commitment to criminal justice diversion, and the focus on collaboration between the County, cities and community partners combine to create a historic opportunity to forge a coordinated system.
F. Increase Available Affordable/Homeless Housing
The lack of affordable housing overall and homeless housing, in particular, contributes substantially to the current crisis of homelessness. The County and cities throughout the region can increase the availability of both affordable and homeless housing through a combination of land use policy and subsidies for housing development.
The County already has the funding in this year’s budget to begin to move forward with all 47 strategies. Twelve elements of the plan, those believed to have the most immediate and achievable impact, are expected to be implemented by June 30th.
Taken as a whole, these recommended strategies are designed to maximize the effectiveness of current efforts to combat homelessness, expand certain key efforts, and implement new actions where appropriate. Though the current level of available funding is far less than the funding needed to eliminate homelessness in Los Angeles County, these strategies are designed to reduce the current number of homeless families and individuals, maximize the alignment and effectiveness of current and future efforts, and lay the foundation for additional effective investments in the future.
In a City Watch op-ed (<—–will be linked) on the Initiative, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl discussed her optimism about the historic plan:
“The solution to homelessness is not more shelter beds, it’s housing and a variety of services. Homelessness is a complex problem, and solving it will require a complex solution. That’s why every one of the 47 strategies outlined in the County plan is important. Our goal is “functional zero” homelessness. This year we will attempt to meet that “functional zero” goal for veterans, that is, we will work to have sufficient permanent and temporary housing so that, as veterans become homeless, they can be re-housed right away. The goal of the County’s historic initiative is to bring that to every Angeleno.”
“This time, we have the engagement and support of lead nonprofits, philanthropy, business, several cities, and an unprecedented commitment and will in the County. There is consensus and alignment across these important sectors and that is why I am optimistic about the success of this far-reaching initiative in solving one of the most challenging moral issues facing Los Angeles.”