A homeless man sleeps on a bench in Palisades Park.

Los Angeles County is improving services for homeless residents and local officials hope improvements in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles will have a trickle-down effect on the local crisis.

The County’s Board of Supervisors voted Oct. 30 to declare a state of shelter emergency in unincorporated areas of the County so homeless services providers in those localities can apply for $81 million in state Homelessness Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funding. The Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (LAHSA) recommends the funding be used to prevent people from becoming homeless, move more families and youth into permanent housing, and build more shelter beds, among other programs.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, said, “This important funding will go a long way to cover costs for bridge housing and emergency services. The Homeless Services Authority has been working with community stakeholders for months to develop this request for $81 million to invest in interim housing, prevention and rapid rehousing strategies, and strengthening the Coordinated Entry System which manages the case information of every person experiencing homelessness in the County. State funding could be very helpful right now to fortify the efforts we began with Measure H funding a little over a year ago.”

Officials hope better homelessness services in unincorporated Los Angeles could precipitate a drop in homelessness countywide, which in turn could mean fewer people using Santa Monica’s shelters, medical facilities, and mental health and substance abuse clinics. The city’s homeless population surged by 26 percent last year, ahead of a 23 percent increase countywide.

“(Building more housing) would relieve the impact on local service providers,” said Alisa Orduña, the City’s senior advisor on homelessness. “People shouldn’t have to come to Santa Monica to sleep on the beach because it feels safe, they should have a bed and a space to stay that’s meant for human habitation.”

Addressing the homelessness crisis at the County level will more evenly disperse housing and services through the Los Angeles region, Orduña said. People experiencing homelessness would no longer have to cluster in the few areas where homelessness services are concentrated, such as Santa Monica or Skid Row, and could instead stay in their communities.

She added she thinks service providers could build new supportive housing, case management offices, or community centers on underutilized land in unincorporated areas of the County. There is currently a countywide shortage of 3,250 shelter beds, according to a LAHSA report.

“If every community took a small chunk, community-based facilities would blend in so well and increase overall well-being for everyone,” Orduña said.

Alex Visotzky, a legislative affairs supervisor with LAHSA, said the agency will ask service providers around the country to submit proposals for projects once it receives the state funding. Local jurisdictions have to declare a shelter crisis to receive HEAP funding.

“We do try to fund with geographic equity in mind, where the need is greatest,” he said.

Orduña said the funding will allow service providers to intervene more effectively with people who are recently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. She estimates that 60 percent of the homeless population can be supported with rental subsidies, while the other 40 percent who may need special services for mental illness or disabilities will benefit from bridge housing staffed with case managers that HEAP can fund.

“If we can help subsidize someone’s rent before they become chronically homeless, it’s far cheaper than allowing them to live on the street,” she said.

Jurisdictions across California must spend the HEAP funds by 2021, according to the official Los Angeles County Shelter Crisis Declaration.

This article was updated Nov. 1 at 2:56 p.m.

madeleine@smdp.com

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2 Comments

  1. Basically the County’s answer to the issue is to make more young families dependent upon the welfare state? Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no mention of correcting the issue of the mentally deranged homeless people who ALREADY populate our streets and alleyways. Clearly, there’s a directive from either the Chief of Police, Mayor, or County officials to do absolutely nothing with the non-violent homeless people. They have absolutely flooded Ocean Park in recent years, and police just stand by and watch as they yell angrily at anyone and everyone who will listen while panhandling the local Walgreens ad nauseam.

  2. By the tone of the article this is a positive event yet so much rides on logistics and implementation. First comment is correct. The mentally societally challenged and citizens need Our City of Santa Monica and the ACLU work out solution for mandatory metal hospital stays, and that needs funding too.
    Finally, please consider changing your headline from “fight” to “alleviate”. Because that is what is needed. Not more fighting.

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