Los Angeles County took the next step Tuesday, May 3, by developing a new entity that will be fully responsible for overseeing all homeless-related businesses in the region. County leaders also agreed to allocate funds for a ‘simplified set of strategies’ aimed at improving the regional rehousing system.
A 3-2 vote Tuesday afternoon by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors paves the way for the creation of a central entity to oversee and reduce homelessness in the county, adopting the commissioners’ recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless.
The commission was tasked with taking a close look at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority before developing recommendations “to reform the systemic dysfunction within the Los Angeles homeless services system as a whole,” the commission said Tuesday. supervisor Kathryn Barger. “And let me say, it wasn’t just about LAHSA. These were all county departments; everyone who comes into contact with homeless services.
The 2020 homeless count conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic found that more than 66,000 people were homeless in Los Angeles County, including more than 48,000 homeless.
The proposed entity was hailed by Barger, Supervisor Janice Hahn, and Supervisor Hilda Solis as a decision that would change the lives of millions. It’s also a solution, according to Barger, that allows county leaders to “give homeless people a roof over their heads, connected to support services, and off our streets for good.”
Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl cast dissenting votes in the 3-2 decision, with Mitchell saying there was “no golden ticket” in any of the guidelines.
Specifically, the seven recommendations included in the commission’s 98-page report relate to collective action, data sharing, and consolidation of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Commission, the Continuum of Care Board, and the Coordinated Entry System Policy Council. in a single organ.
“There is an urgent need for us to change what we are doing or not doing to help the most vulnerable people living on our streets,” Barger said, describing the report and the rise in homelessness-related deaths as a call to action. the action. “We have known for some time that we need to make big changes.”
Barger added that there is no doubt in his mind that there is a need for a new county entity specifically tasked with addressing homelessness.
“However, I really want to be clear,” Barger said, “it’s not about creating a new cumbersome bureaucracy. It’s about creating an agile entity that will report directly to this board. It’s about create a county department that will support flexible solutions that help homeless people by meeting them where they are and helping them heal.
Solis agreed, later noting that the framework established by the Blue Ribbon Commission enables the county to build a transparent, inclusive and accountable homeless governance system.
“It’s a good roadmap in my opinion,” Solis said, “to continue investing in our cities.”
Kuehl, however, said the answer to homelessness lies in finding housing — not additional layers of bureaucracy.
“It’s more like what my grandmother used to call resetting the lounge chairs on Titanic and thinking that might save it from sinking,” she said.
Acknowledging the flaws in the system as well as “the enormous number of people who have been relocated”, Kuehl added that the current system is making a dent in the crisis and is exponentially more capable of relocating people and preventing homelessness than it was five years ago.
Mitchell wondered aloud how the county would cover the cost of creating a new entity with such varied responsibilities. Mitchell said she believes “doubling down governance” will not solve the region’s housing and homelessness crises.
Even before the six-month process to create the commission with $1 million of taxpayers’ money, the county had numerous studies and more than 500 interviews with stakeholders, “who agreed that increasing governance wasn’t the issue here,” Mitchell said.
“It’s so much easier said than done how we streamline and bring all of these departments together to make this happen like magic,” Mitchell said. “I don’t see in this process, realistically anytime soon, how this single entity is going to succeed.”
Kuehl later acknowledged that she didn’t believe Tuesday’s action would bring her peers significantly closer to achieving the county’s goal of ending homelessness.
“I just feel like when you’re faced with a bleeding wound, you don’t say let’s rebuild our hospital board and then restructure the way we dispatch the ambulance,” Kuehl said. “And if you bleed while we try some of these things, we’re sorry.”
Kuehl described many of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations as “miles away from achieving the very concrete goals we need to achieve, and may actually weaken the county’s response to the underlying causes of the roaming”.
Despite his and Mitchell’s opposition to the creation of a new entity, the five supervisors united in a unanimous vote to approve a motion crafted by Hahn that allocates funds for new strategies to be applied in the relocation system of the county.
Hahn’s measure also seeks to develop policies and tools, such as data agreements, to enable homeless management information system access between LAHSA, surrounding cities and the county.
“We’ve been doing this job for a long time,” Hahn said. “I have been frustrated by the persistence of the problem of homelessness and the human suffering that accompanies it. But there is no excuse to settle for the status quo.
Instead, Hahn argued the county should keep adjusting its strategies until it finds the most effective way to get people the help they need.
“I think these reforms will add some accountability and some coordination and I still believe that reform and accountability are two key elements to any progress we’re trying to make,” Hahn said, pointing out that LAHSA has never had the power to solve the biggest challenges. in the homelessness crisis.
The new county entity, according to Hahn, “is empowered to deal with the crisis, has the resources to do so, and is ultimately accountable for the results.”
Barger noted that the people who make up the entity will lay the groundwork for change.
Thus, Barger said, “I would encourage my colleagues to take a very coordinated and fresh approach when making appointments to this body.”
Mitchell, on the other hand, said, “It’s important that we refine and clarify to make sure we’re not just creating an infrastructure that will be as hampered by bureaucracy as the one we’re trying to improve or replace.”
As Barger has done many times before, Hahn said the county should reject the status quo as it did in Tuesday’s vote.
“I’m under no illusions that we’ve done enough today to solve the homelessness crisis,” Hahn said. “But these reforms represent progress, and I hope they help.”
Supervisor Holly Mitchell, wondering how the county would cover the cost of creating a new entity with such varied responsibilities, couldn’t find it in her heart to side with her peers on the matter.
City News Service contributed to this report