The LA County Board of Supervisors approved two groundbreaking homelessness prevention strategies today.
The first motion requires a thorough analysis of local eviction data as well as a review of eviction defense programs being operated elsewhere in the country in order to assess ways in which LA County might design a local eviction defense program. Eviction defense services provide legal counsel to low-income renters who are at risk of eviction.
Current research indicates that more than half of County residents are living paycheck to paycheck. Faced with any unexpected financial crisis, these residents find themselves unable to pay rent, evicted and without a home. Eviction is profoundly disruptive for families, interrupting school and work schedules and damaging credit, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty by making it more difficult to move into a new rental and potentially leading to homelessness. In 2017, New York City established an eviction defense program, and, by the following year, legal representation of low-income tenants had risen by nearly one-third, and evictions had sharply declined.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, said “LA’s housing shortage and skyrocketing rents are leading to more and more people being pushed into homelessness. We need to use every tool at our disposal to keep people in their homes.”
“It is not enough to provide housing and services to the homeless — we must also prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the motion, said. “This requires expanding our arsenal of tools to better protect low-income residents on the brink of losing their homes, often through no fault of their own.”
In a related motion, the Board of Supervisors required key County departments to track, coordinate and target services for people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.
“We know people often seek County social services before becoming homeless,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “For instance, 37% of residents enrolled in County substance abuse treatment are at risk of homelessness. Can’t we find ways to provide those men and women with support before they become homeless, so they can stay in their homes?”
The motion asks relevant County departments to identify ways to improve the delivery of preventative services in order to reduce homelessness.
“If we are ever going to wrap our arms around this growing problem, we have to stop the flow of people falling into homelessness in the first place,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, co-author of the County department tracking motion. “People find themselves homeless for many reasons– but some of those reasons are predictable and preventable.”
Today’s motions extend Supervisor Kuehl’s efforts over the last several years to reduce homelessness by expanding investment in prevention, outreach, supportive housing, rapid rehousing, bridge and permanent housing through the Homeless Initiative; curbing the rise of skyrocketing rents and related evictions through rent stabilization and just cause policies; and increasing funding for affordable housing construction.