After 15 years of service to St. Joseph Center, Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum will leave the agency effective February 5, 2023 to join the administration of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. Dr. Adams Kellum will lead the Mayor’s Inside Safe initiative and then transition to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) as its new Chief Executive Officer.

“It was a difficult decision to leave the people and mission that I love,” said Dr. Adams Kellum. “We have accomplished tremendous things together and we have so much to be proud of. But our success here at St. Joseph Center has prepared me to stay in my purpose and take on this hugely important effort. I am full of gratitude to Mayor Bass, Chairwoman Hahn, and LAHSA Chair Greuel. It means a great deal for all three of them to be locking arms to make change happen for our unhoused neighbors. It is a privilege to help realize the goals of Inside Safe and create a reimagined, reinvigorated LAHSA. I thank each of these extraordinary women for the opportunity to meet these challenges. I am humbled by this opportunity and also clear-eyed in the urgency of this moment. Business as usual is unacceptable.”

Dr. Adams Kellum joined St. Joseph Center (SJC) as its Executive Director in early 2008. Under her leadership, first as E.D. then as President & CEO, the Center’s impact has grown significantly. The number of people assisted annually, the scope of services offered, and the geographic reach of the agency have all increased tremendously. The year before she arrived, St. Joseph Center served 6,000 people. By 2022, the agency reached 13,000 people. From a local agency with a staff of 100 and a budget of $5 million, it has become a major regional social service provider employing nearly 400 people with a $50 million budget. 

St. Joseph Center’s Board Chairman Kevin McCardle praised Adams Kellum as a true visionary. “Va Lecia managed the transformation of every aspect of St. Joseph Center while always staying true to our mission of serving the dear neighbor without distinction. Mayor Bass is getting the absolute best possible person to galvanize Inside Safe, and LAHSA will get a systems-level thinker and agent for change. All of us at St. Joseph Center will miss her terribly, but we know that she is making the right choice at this extremely critical moment, when the city and county are ready to work together to address the crisis of homelessness.”

During summer 2021, Adams Kellum and her team led a collaborative effort with City and County partners on Ocean Front Walk in Venice that moved 213 unhoused people into housing and eliminated major encampments at the beach. Outreach teams offered immediate housing in motels paired with a path to permanent housing, and the overwhelming majority of people living on the beach and boardwalk said yes to coming inside. Today, 70% of the people previously living on the beach remain housed.

“In Dr. Adams Kellum, we are bringing new leadership to LAHSA that is completely aligned with the new spirit of unity and urgency that the City and the County are bringing to our crisis of homelessness,” said Mayor Karen Bass, noting that Dr. Adams Kellum led the recent addressing of encampments in Hollywood and Venice through the City’s new Inside Safe strategy. “With more than 40,000 unhoused people within the City of Los Angeles and more than 67,000 across the County of Los Angeles, a unified approach is the only way we can make a difference, and that’s exactly the road we’re on.”

LAHSA (the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County. LAHSA coordinates and manages over $800 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs that provide shelter, housing, and services to people experiencing homelessness. 

“Our dual state of emergencies is already breaking down barriers among the County, City, LAHSA, and the community that has held us back in addressing our homelessness crisis,” said Supervisor and LAHSA Commissioner Lindsey Horvath. “I appointed myself to the LAHSA Commission to ensure we meet this moment with the urgency it requires. Simply put, Va Lecia is fearless, committed, and brilliant. I am incredibly excited for this new moment.”

St. Joseph Center’s seasoned executive leadership team and dedicated Board of Directors will guide the agency through this time of transition. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet founded St. Joseph Center in 1976, and their current representative on SJC’s Board, Sr. Barbara Anne Stowasser, noted that, “The Center’s staff are the beating heart of the mission and at the core of our vital work. We will miss Va Lecia, but our wonderful and dedicated employees will continue to change lives every day by inspiring people to choose hope, just as St. Joseph Center has done for over 45 years.”

Reflecting on her transition, Adams Kellum said, “I simply could not do this without the support of my husband Ed and my daughters, Alexis and Ashley. It is a lot to take on and I have to thank them for making it possible.  When I started at St. Joseph Center, I honestly never imagined I would one day be joining the first female Mayor of Los Angeles to implement a program as critically important as Inside Safe and also be leading transformational change at LAHSA. I appreciate the confidence and trust that Mayor Bass, Chairwoman Hahn and the County Board of Supervisors along with Chair Greuel and the LAHSA Commission are placing in me. I am also incredibly grateful to everyone at St. Joseph Center, who are the most dedicated, mission-focused people I have ever worked with. The entire staff and board brought us to where we are today. Hope is part of St. Joseph Center’s DNA, and I could not be more hopeful or confident about SJC’s future.”

Submitted by Paul Rubenstein, St. Joseph Center VP External Affairs.