Sylmar Armory Women’s Bridge Housing

I am really happy to report that the Board passed my motion this week, co-authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, taking the first steps to establish the Sylmar Armory Women’s Bridge Housing. The motion includes information on funding for renovations and designates LA Family Housing as the entity responsible for carrying out the renovations and operating the shelter.

Of the roughly 53,000 people experiencing homelessness in LA County, around 16,000 are women. Women experiencing homelessness face an extra set of challenges, particularly when living on the streets. A recent report by LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Women and Homelessness showed that many women had experienced physical and sexual violence, human trafficking, poverty, and poor physical and mental health. The goal of the Sylmar Armory Women’s Bridge Housing project is to create a safe place for these women to call home, somewhere they can address potential trauma experienced on the streets, begin to heal and find a permanent home.

Woolsey Fire Aftermath and Analysis

The Woolsey Fire was a behemoth of a disaster that blazed from the 101 freeway corridor, through the Santa Monica Mountains and down to the ocean in just five hours, destroying property and wildlife at an enormous scale. I introduced three motions this week aimed at easing recovery efforts for constituents, preventing price gouging and analyzing the response and recovery from the fire.

The first motion passed by the Board calls for the formation of a working group and the hiring if a consultant to review the County, City, State and other involved agencies efforts in responding to the fire, with an emphasis on the cause and origin of the fire, firefighting deployments and resources, evacuation procedures, communication, and repopulation decisions. The group will provide a progress report to the Board in 90 days, and every 90 days thereafter until a final report is issued.

The second motion extended protections against price gouging for an additional 30 days, and the third enacted an ordinance I proposed last week that waives certain planning fees and allows RV’s on properties during the process of rebuilding.

CalWORKs and Working Families

On Tuesday, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis that works toward changes in the CalWORKs program to help keep struggling families afloat.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, or CalWORKs, eligibility and the amount of aid awarded is based on a variety of factors such as the family’s income and Earned Income Disregards (EID). EID allows families to have a certain amount of their monthly income disregarded without affecting their total CalWORKs grant. The current EID was established in 1998, based on the minimum wage at that time, $5 an hour, and it has not been updated since. The changing minimum wage paired with the static EID levels means families are having a harder time accessing benefits and support services, so this week’s motion calls for an analysis followed by a legislative proposal to amend the EID levels.

The legislative proposal that will result from this motion will help families continue to access CalWORKs benefits like childcare, employment, and transportation services, which can help prevent their falling into unemployment and homelessness.

Art as a Criminal Justice Reform Strategy

In an exciting first step towards expanding equity and access to the arts for justice-involved youth, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to convene an interdepartmental Youth Arts Task Force.

A number of studies have found that arts programs have the power to improve the environment inside facilities, enhance educational and health-related outcomes, reduce recidivism for justice-involved individuals, and can even result in significant cost savings. The arts can also open up employment opportunities, which is incredibly important as unemployment is linked to re-offending. This motion calls on a Youth Arts Task Force to report back with a Countywide plan to further elevate the arts as a criminal justice reform strategy, and to provide recommendations for developing and coordinating arts programs across the County for at-risk and system involved youth.

The benefits of arts programming and education among this vulnerable youth population is proven. I am thrilled that the Board has made the arts a priority!

Housing and Mental Health

The Board passed another motion related to Interim or Bridge Housing on Tuesday, which was directed at improving and adequately funding mental health services at existing interim housing facilities.

While Measure H has enabled the County to expand Interim Housing drastically, it is equally important that these facilities are well-staffed with clinicians and mental health professionals who can provide the support that residents with mental illness need. This motion, which I co-authored with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, asks the Department of Mental Health to identify ways to increase funding to support clinical mental health services at interim housing sites, as current investments fall short of the dramatic rise in homelessness LA County has experienced, leaving facilities unable to meet demand.