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Housing and Homelessness

LAHSA's New Commissioner Is Rev. Andy Bales

A sign and logo on the side of a building spells out LAHSA, which stands for Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
LAHSA's headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.
(Matt Tinoco
/
LAist)
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A new, and somewhat controversial, voice is coming to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commission.

L.A. County Supervisors have appointed the Rev. Andy Bales, who heads the Union Rescue Mission on skid row. He's a critic of LAHSA's "housing first" strategy, which focuses on getting people off the streets without conditions, such as staying sober.

Bales argues this approach is too hands-off.

"I know people who are struggling with addiction slip and fall. And I don't believe they should be kicked out," he said. "But the goal should be to provide a sober environment and to address the addiction."

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Bales insists permanent housing alone will not solve the homelessness crisis. Emergency shelters, tiny homes and other quicker fixes are needed to help more people now.

He supports Project Homekey, a state-funded program intended to convert hotels and other existing buildings into permanent housing, with the caveat that a sober environment is a must.

LAHSA's commission has the authority to make financial and policy decisions for the agency, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for both the city and county of Los Angeles. Both governments provide funding for LAHSA.

Bales says his goal is to share creative ideas and research, as well as wisdom from 35 years of working with unhoused people. Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who nominated Bales, says he'll "bring a fresh perspective" to the commission.

"He has dedicated his entire life to helping people experiencing homelessness, and I wholeheartedly believe his advocacy as a Commissioner will help ensure funding, programs and services are effectively and compassionately provided," she said.

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