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Housing and Homelessness

Mayor’s ‘Inside Safe’ Program To Ease Homelessness Spawns An Advocacy Coalition: ‘Inside Starving’

A group of about 10 people of varying ages and races stand in front of a table with several displays.
Unhoused and housed members of the Inside Starving coalition at a press conference in Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles on Monday, May 8, 2023.
(Nick Gerda
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Soon after being sworn in last December, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass launched Inside Safe, a program to clear encampments and offer motel rooms with services to unhoused Angelenos.

Now, a coalition of advocates calling themselves “Inside Starving” says there’s a host of broken promises — including a lack of mental health services and food. And, they have demands.

They held a news conference and protest on Monday, saying their requests to meet with the mayor have been met with silence.

“The pamphlet says that we’re being offered all these things. But in reality, we’re like ‘We are? Where is it?’ ” said Yolanda Orellana, an unhoused woman who said she joined Inside Safe from an encampment in West L.A.

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Orellana said she and others don’t know who their case managers are, and that some of the food provided was rotten.

What Inside Starving wants

Inside Starving describes itself as a coalition of unhoused people, housed neighbors and mutual aid groups.

They have two main demands. One is that promises to Inside Safe participants be put in writing. The other is for a meeting with the mayor — something they say they’ve requested five times to no avail.

“We want a meeting with her. We want to talk to her. Crickets,” said Paisley Mares, an advocate with Inside Starving. Jeffrey Troop, who is unhoused, said Inside Safe made them lose their spot in a different program — known as a full service partnership — that offered a path to housing.

It is clear that Inside Safe is about disappearing people. Nobody cares about participants once their tents are taken. And anyone left behind is subject to police harassment.
— Jeffrey Troop, an unhoused Angeleno and advocate with Inside Starving.

Troop said they were no longer eligible for the other program because Inside Safe was supposed to offer wraparound services, but it didn’t.

“Under a full service partnership program, I was on a waitlist for interim housing, which people have now moved into, at-home therapy, and desperately needed coverage for medical [needs],” Troop told reporters Monday.

“I lost all of that because of Inside Safe,” Troop added. “It is clear that Inside Safe is about disappearing people. Nobody cares about participants once their tents are taken. And anyone left behind is subject to police harassment.”

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Mayor’s office blames shortages of services and housing

A spokesperson for the mayor, Zach Seidl, said he’s looking into the concerns, and that some of the demands are already in place — like making the program voluntary.

Other issues stem from a longstanding shortage of services and affordable housing, he said.

“Inside Safe has brought more than 1,100 Angelenos inside from encampments across the City and has saved lives. Many of the issues raised today are serious institutional problems that have long plagued housing efforts in Los Angeles,” Seidl said in a statement to LAist. He added:

“The lack of wrap-around services and interim housing throughout the City are two of the biggest barriers standing in the way of housing 40,000 Angelenos and we are investing in scaling up Inside Safe through the Mayor’s budget to address these problems. We will continue working with participants in the program, service providers, and our government partners to bring Angelenos inside and ensure they are able to stay inside.”

LAist revealed recently that required transparency reports about Inside Safe — showing exactly how many people have been sheltered and where the money is going — have not been provided to the city council, which since January has required reports every two weeks as part of the initial $50 million allocation for the program.

Inside Starving advocates questioned where the money has been going, saying there’s been a lack of accountability for contractors.

City officials have said details of the spending aren’t public yet because the city takes months to pay its bills. Only about $400,000 in spending has been detailed from the $50 million account the city set up for Inside Safe.

Mayor Bass is now asking the city council for a major expansion of Inside Safe — an extra $250 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

That represents the vast majority of Bass’ plans to expand homelessness spending.

Council pushback

But she’s starting to run into pushback from council members, some of whom want more oversight over the Inside Safe expansion.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the council’s budget committee, said in recent days that he wants the next $250 million to be handled differently, so the mayor has to come for council approval multiple times throughout the year.

“The first $50 million we gave her for Inside Safe was kind of a no-strings-attached thing,” Blumenfield told the L.A. Times.

“It was, ‘We’re in a crisis, it’s your first 100 days, you want to start immediately, here’s $50 million. Go.’ But that’s not how government works. That’s not how checks and balances work. ... For me and many others, it was never the way things would work moving forward.”

Bass is pushing back against that higher level of oversight — saying it could return the city to a lack of urgency around homelessness.

She also argued it’s problematic because the council could later decide to spend the money in other ways, and Inside Safe contractors would lose certainty about their funding.

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