News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.

Martin v. Boise Amicus Brief

Last September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, in Martin v. Boise, that arresting or otherwise punishing people experiencing homelessness for sleeping on the sidewalk when there are not enough shelter beds or housing was unconstitutional. Regrettably, this week the Board passed a motion to join an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court asking that the decision made in Martin v. Boise be overturned.

I am deeply disappointed in this action, which I voted against along with Supervisor Hilda Solis. This is a civil rights, practical and human issue. We need more housing, shelter beds, and supportive services for these folks, not to criminalize them for having nowhere to go.

The original Martin v. Boise ruling is limited. It does not prevent jurisdictions from enacting safety-based ordinances such as banning camping in high fire areas. Overturning the Boise decision only expands law enforcement’s ability to make arrests, when we have proven this is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. When police officers and sheriff’s deputies cite people experiencing homelessness for sleeping in public, it does not get that person one inch closer to services or housing, it simply adds to the barriers he or she faces to re-establishing a stable home.

While I empathize with my colleague’s frustration at the scale and persistence of the homelessness crisis, I do not feel joining this amicus will help.

Access to Voting for Residents Experiencing Homelessness

The 2020 election is just around the corner! As the Registrar Recorder/County Clerk engages with the community on the Voting Solutions for All People project, our outreach efforts must include the close to 60,000 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County.

Residents experiencing homelessness encounter obstacles that hinder their ability to register and exercise their right to vote. One hindrance is a changing or non-existent address. This motion, authored by Supervisor Solis, directs the RR/CC to work with homeless service providers to overcome barriers to voter registration among those who are dealing with housing instability.

The new VSAP model includes establishing vote centers throughout the County to serve all voters over an 11-day voting period. The motion also directs RR/CC to assess homeless shelters as possible voting centers, as transportation is yet another barrier this population faces in casting their ballot.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

This week the Board passed Supervisor Hilda Solis’s motion formally recognizing the month of September as National Suicide Prevention Month, to increase awareness and prevention of suicide deaths in Los Angeles County.

Though often a contributing factor, mental illness is not the sole indicator for suicide attempts or death. Immigration status, housing stress, substance use, job loss, and even declining health can increase the risk of suicide. Furthermore, we know that the LGBTQ population is uniquely and disproportionately affected by suicide. According to the Trevor Project’s landmark National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 39% of LGBTQ youth, and more than half of transgender and non-binary youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months. It is crucial that we address the issues that contribute to suicide rates on a macro level, in addition to reaching out to our friends, family, and peers who may be at risk.

The issue of suicide is complex, and a difficult conversation to have, but it is one that can save a life. Know the signs, find the words, and reach out for help. If you or someone you care about is in a crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 to talk with a caring, trained counselor. It is free, confidential, and available 24/7. You can also use the Crisis Text Line: just TEXT “Home” to 741-741.

DCFS Contracts

At the request of the Department of Children and Family Services, the Board approved a series of contracts providing specialized services for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children and potential adoptive parents of children with special needs, respectively.

The first motion authorizes contracts in each of the 6 First Responder Protocol areas for advocacy services aimed at child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, or children at risk of such exploitation. Organizations such as Saving Innocence, Inc provide wraparound, comprehensive services for survivors and at-risk youth including crisis intervention, linkages to long-term services, support through testifying against their trafficker if necessary, and life skills and empowerment workshops. Such support is critical for long term healing and recovery from the trauma to which these children have been exposed.

There is also a need for resource families for the thousands of children available for adoption in the foster care system, especially for children with special needs, significant trauma and those who experienced prenatal exposure to substances. These children deserve supportive and loving home environments, and their prospective families deserve adequate preparation, assistance, and the opportunity to make informed decisions about adoption. The UCLA program, called TIES (Training, Intervention, Education, Services), includes presentations to recruit potential resource parents, extensive training and education on the unique challenges faced by special needs children, and assistance in navigating supportive services before, during and after adoption placement. When armed with information, access to services like counseling and a network of support, families are more likely to be equipped to provide a permanent, stable home for the children they adopt.

CalFresh Healthy Living Program

We are happy to accept and sign a grant from the California Department of Public Health to support the CalFresh Healthy Living Program. This money, totaling $39,824,697, will allow the Champions for Change-Healthy Communities Initiative to continue its valuable work.

The Champions for Change-Healthy Communities Initiative is a Food Assistance (SNAP) education program aimed at reducing obesity and chronic diseases. The program does this through a three-pronged approach: Nutrition and exercise education, community engagement, and policy change. All three angles are critical to creating positive and lasting change.

Funding this program into the future is necessary to improve the health of our city in the long-term and make sure a healthy body and healthy life is accessible to everyone in Los Angeles County.