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Housing and Homelessness

LA’s Homelessness Authority Has New Plans. Here’s What It Wants To Do

A print-out that says HOMELESS COUNT with a large arrow pointing toward a door where a person is standing, back to the camera, is taped to a window.
Volunteers arrive for the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count on February 24, 2022 in Los Angeles. The annual count in a city with one of the largest homeless communities in the country is done to obtain an accurate count of unhoused people across Los Angeles County.
(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP)
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The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) unveiled new plans on Thursday to reduce unsheltered homeless in L.A. County over the next three years.

The four-part plan includes:

  • Increasing the speed of getting people from temporary shelter into permanent supportive housing
  • Collecting, analyzing, and sharing regional data to track rehousing systems  
  • Improving the management of grants and contracts with unhoused service providers
  • Doing a better job informing and educating the public about its efforts to shelter unhoused people and resources they need from the government.

What Is LAHSA's Plan To Do This?

LAHSA said it will create a new matching policy, working with the Coordinated Entry System policy council to build more flexibility into how people access permanent supportive housing. 

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During the pandemic, LAHSA started using Recovery Rehousing vouchers to help people keep stable housing, which are time-limited subsidies that help people keep stable housing for predefined periods of time. Here’s an example of how it works: If someone finds an affordable unit and moves in, a subsidy will pay for six months of rent to allow that person time to get back on their feet.

The length of time a person receives will vary by person and their needs. By the end of the subsidy, a person should be able to stay in a unit on their own without additional help. LAHSA is making that program permanent and will now be called Time Limited Subsidies.

LAHSA plans on redesigning its housing navigation process for people who receive emergency housing or Section 8 vouchers by helping them to secure required documents and paperwork like ID cards to speed up placements into housing. The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles previously told LAist incomplete paperwork slows down its ability to approve applications

Why Now?

LAHSA started evaluating its current systems in 2019 after the first Measure H report was published, said Molly Rysman, LAHSA’s co-executive director. Measure H is a Los Angeles County sales tax to fund homeless services approved by voters in 2017. The measure raises $335 million annually for 10 years to, in part, coordinate outreach services such as street engagement and to subsidize housing costs.

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Rysman explained that the report came after meeting with service providers, elected officials, government partners, and people with lived experience to make sure they are effectively addressing homelessness.

“Those convos helped develop a new vision and direction that will allow us to drive L.A. regional rehousing systems to end homelessness for more people faster,” Rysman said, adding that LAHSA also learned “tremendous” lessons from the pandemic on how to get people housed faster.

There’s also been investment into interim housing that LAHSA oversees.

Kristina Dixon, co-executive director of LAHSA, said those conversations provided the opportunity to learn more about where gaps are in the system that need to be addressed.

LAHSA’s new plans come almost a month after Heidi Marston surprisingly resigned from the executive director role, citing a lack of control over regulatory or policy decisions, underfunding for service providers and red tape. No replacement has been appointed yet.

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The Push For Permanent Supportive Housing

The biggest component is moving people from shelters into more permanent housing options faster, according to Rysman, who said LAHSA has done a lot of encampment resolution work at the behest of certain city council members, but not having shelter beds for people to go to has been a problem.

“We can’t convince someone to leave their encampment unless there's a bed to go to,” Rysman said. “Even though we’ve opened up a lot of new beds, a lot of times people aren’t moving out fast enough. They’re being stuck in our shelter system.”

Rysman said they are seeing an increase in the number of Measure HHH units available to people experiencing homelessness and working on new ways to secure housing in the private market.

A former hotel is under renovation. Shown is the sidewalk and the fencing around the property while construction is ongoing.
A future Project Homekey site in council district 15. The building is under renovation, but will offer supportive housing when it reopens in 2022.
(Ethan Ward
/
LAist)
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Veronica Lewis, director of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS), said she thinks it’s a good plan and service providers and people with lived experience have been expressing this need. But she is concerned about the types of interim housing available.

“I just want to lift up how many people that are living outdoors who don’t want to go to interim housing,” Lewis said. “In addition to creating a way to get people from long term stays in these temporary shelters, there’s also people who will never come into those temporary situations and we need to be focusing on moving them directly from the streets or into permanent housing or into private spaces as well.”

But there are concerns that unhoused people won’t accept temporary offers of shelter that don’t come with privacy. Fewer than one-third who responded to a recent RAND Corp. survey said they would move into a congregate shelter.

Lewis previously told LAist that master leasing is the way forward to get people housed quickly.

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.