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Housing and Homelessness

LA Homeless Services Authority's Executive Director Resigns

A logo that says LAHSA is engraved on the side of a building. A rainy street is in the background.
LAHSA's headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.
(Matt Tinoco
/
LAist)
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Heidi Marston, the executive director for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), resigned on Monday.

Marston made her resignation public on Twitter and in a Medium post headlined, "The Homelessness Crisis: A Monster of Our Own Making."
She cited a lack of control over regulatory or policy decisions, underfunding for service providers and red tape as reasons she’s stepping down.

“We have designed the crisis we are experiencing,” Marston said in the post. “In my role I have taken both ownership of LAHSA’s shortcomings and pride in LAHSA’s drive towards constant improvement to ensure the best service for our unhoused neighbors.”

LAHSA is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for unhoused people in Los Angeles County. It administers services and policies to shape best practices in getting people experiencing homelessness into housing.

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Marston had served as LAHSA's executive director since June 2020. In December 2019, she had been named acting executive director, less than a year after she started as chief program officer.

Marston wrote in her Medium post that the homelessness crisis has been expanding: for every 205 people in L.A. County who resolved their homelessness in 2020, 225 people fell into homelessness the same day. She said the reasons for this, in part, are systemic racism, low wages and a high cost of living.

“It is all too simple to blame and problem-solve around visible targets like the people suffering on the streets, non-profit homeless service providers, or LAHSA,” Marston wrote. “The inescapable reality is that society’s collective focus has been on what is easily identifiable, not on the systemic issues underlying the crisis look at the wider landscape reveals causes — and consequent solutions — to the crisis that demands greater blame than any service provider or individual.”

LAHSA is the lead agency in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care — a consolidated system meant to guide and track people experiencing homelessness through housing and services. Services include outreach, intake and assessment, emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent or supportive housing. There have been recent calls from elected officials to overhaul or completely eliminate LAHSA.

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LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston is smiling while wearing a navy dress with her arms folded in front of her.
LAHSA's Executive Director Heidi Marston.
( Courtesy of LAHSA)

After Marston's resignation, LAHSA Commission Chair Jacqueline Waggoner said that LAHSA’s priority will continue to be serving people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County and ensuring the organization's staff continue to be fully supported.

"Interim leadership will be appointed in short order to ensure continuity in services to the community,” Waggoner said.

“We value the men and women at LAHSA who are working every day to end homelessness in the city and county of Los Angeles," LAHSA Commission Vice Chair Wendy Greuel said. "Our LAHSA staff are at the heart of what we do and who we serve. We will continue to focus on the most important issues, which is ending homelessness and making sure people transition from shelters to permanent housing.”

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.

Updated April 25, 2022 at 4:06 PM PDT
This story was updated to include reaction from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency.