City of Los Angeles Says Thanks, But No Thanks, To Blue Ribbon Commission On Homelessness
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, created by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in late July, held its first meeting on Wednesday.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger co-sponsored the motion to create the commission, which was established to research and give recommendations to the board for a new governance model to address homelessness. Barger said at the meeting that the commission’s role is “critical” to improve accountability, transparency and inclusivity.
“Homelessness is a major crisis affecting our communities,” she said. “I believe this is an opportunity to make some major changes to the system, which is why we are here today.”
But the “we” did not include representatives from the city of Los Angeles.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez had been invited to nominate four people to the commission. But in a letter addressed to Celia Zavala, the executive officer of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Garcetti and Martinez said they would not make those appointments because the commission’s work would only delay efforts already underway to address the crisis.
We strongly believe that we cannot afford to stall progress for another six months by creating yet another commission and report to tell us what we already know: that we must move faster with added focus on making an immediate difference.
The letter, which was released after the commission concluded its meeting, read, in part: “We strongly believe that we cannot afford to stall progress for another six months by creating yet another commission and report to tell us what we already know: that we must move faster with added focus on making an immediate difference — in both the lives of people who do not have a roof over their heads, and the communities that have borne the brunt of a humanitarian crisis that will intensify if we do not act with the purpose and urgency that it demands.”
In a statement, Barger said: "I hope the City will reconsider and appoint representatives. However, the [commission] will invite City stakeholders for their input either way.”
The commission was supposed to consist of 12 members: one appointed by each of the five supervisors, one by Garcetti, three from Martinez, two from the Councils of Government, and one from the Contract Cities Association. Only eight appointees were present at the meeting, along with Mary Wickham, the commission’s executive director.
A spokesperson for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors said in a statement that Wickham would, in part, lead an in-depth study of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to “identify intrinsic challenges of the existing system.” LAHSA is the lead agency that coordinates homelessness policy for the city and county.
In their letter, Garcetti and Martinez said LAHSA has played a “critical role in delivering services and funding,” and they plan to build on the model to end the homelessness crisis “once and for all.”
Mello Desire, a policy analyst for the State of California and founder of the Kingdom Warriors Foundation, a nonprofit that works with mostly Black people experiencing homelessness, said organizations like hers are often left out of conversations about fixing the unhoused crisis, despite Black people being disproportionately affected.
“These people create a so-called commission and all they want to do is discuss ideas when the solution is right in their face,” she said. “We just have to have a seat at the table. Black people have not been given the opportunity or the funding to help solve this problem.”
The next Blue Ribbon Commission meeting is scheduled for Sept. 22 and a website dedicated to the Blue Ribbon Commission is in the works.