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Housing and Homelessness

LA Voters Have Approved A Lot Of Money To Address Homelessness. But Tracking Those Dollars Is Complicated

the top of LA City Hall can be seen against a blue sky and clouds with green leafy trees in the foreground.
L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin said despite a lot of well-intentioned people working to address the city’s homelessness crisis, a centralized dashboard that Angelenos can navigate is crucial because information is too spread out.
(Ethan Ward
/
LAist)
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Mayor Eric Garcetti released his proposed budget on Wednesday that details how the city plans to further spend money allocated toward the homelessness crisis. In part, that funding will go toward more Homekey sites, expanding homeownership services and investments in homeless prevention.

L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin expressed concern over the budget in a statement about the challenges the city will face, particularly since there won’t be federal pandemic assistance to rely on.

For unhoused residents, this is crucial.

“We are encouraging the city to do a much better job of tracking what spending is actually related to homelessness so that we can create a dashboard that shows it,” Galperin said. “We need to have dashboards that show what are the results that are actually being achieved.”

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Galperin said residents of the city, both housed and unhoused, deserve greater accountability to ensure homelessness-related spending isn’t misspent or wasted. But what does greater accountability look like when funding sources for homelessness come from many places?

“I think it's crucial that there be one place so that we can holistically look at what is being spent by the city, county and by the state,” Galperin said. “There are also many nonprofits that are spending a great deal of money to address this. You add all that up and you’ve got billions of dollars being spent every year and with that kind of money, we should not have the disaster and the human tragedy that we see has unfolded on the streets.”

Galperin says dashboards would allow Angelenos to monitor how their tax dollars are used by nonprofits or spent on affordable housing.

Robert Lobo, a resident of downtown, previously told LAist he supported measures to increase funding for homelessness initiatives — like Proposition HHH, a 2016 $1.2 billion bond measure meant to create 10,000 units for people experiencing homelessness. Lobo questioned how effective it was, saying he didn’t feel like it was making a dent.

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For the typical Angeleno, they are seeing what's happening in their neighborhoods. They are seeing what's happening when they drive on and off the freeway. The reality is that we have to recognize the fact that the way the money is being spent is not always working.
— Ron Galperin, controller for the city of L.A.

Galperin released a report that found the units were slow to come online and more expensive than planned. The mayor’s website currently has a dashboard that shows how Proposition HHH units are progressing.

Miguel Santana, co-chair of the Committee for Greater L.A. 's Housing and Homelessness Action Team, attributed the lack of progress on homelessness despite an “unprecedented” investment of dollars, in part, to a lack of transparency and accountability.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the lead agency for the region’s Continuum of Care, has dashboards on its website that show the outcomes of how tax dollars are being spent on programs such as transitional shelters and housing placements. But it doesn’t show how much money was spent because money comes from a variety of sources that include the city, county and federal government.

Galperin said that, despite a lot of well-intentioned people working to address the city’s homelessness crisis, a centralized dashboard that Angelenos can navigate is crucial because information is too spread out.

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“For the typical Angeleno, they are seeing what's happening in their neighborhoods," Galperin said. “They are seeing what's happening when they drive on and off the freeway. The reality is that we have to recognize the fact that the way the money is being spent is not always working.”

What questions do you have about homelessness?
Ethan Ward for a time lived in his car while attending community college. That experience informs his reporting on one of the most pressing issues in Southern California.