New Report Says Unhoused People Should Be Part Of The Conversations To Solve The Homelessness Crisis
A report released Wednesday found that people who have experienced homelessness are uniquely able to identify challenges within the homelessness system and offer solutions.
Nineteen people who have experienced homelessness participated in focus groups conducted by the Corp. for Supportive Housing and the Redstone consulting firm. The report was commissioned by the Committee for Greater L.A., a coalition of civic leaders with a “shared vision of using the pandemic recovery as an opportunity to advance a more equitable Los Angeles.”
Here are seven key findings:
- The Los Angeles housing and homelessness systems have struggled to create and provide access to housing options and connect the unhoused population to dignified services
- A lack of centralized leadership, regional planning, and accountability create miscoordination that is strongly felt by those experiencing homelessness
- Improved governmental interagency coordination between the county, cities, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and public agencies is needed to ensure adequate housing supply and holistic wraparound services before, during, and after homelessness
- Compassionate case managers, navigators, and advocates, including those with lived experience, have successfully navigated participants from street homelessness to stability and deserve ongoing investment
- People who have experienced homelessness should have formal roles on the ground and in senior leadership across the system given their expertise
- Data should be reported in real time and used to improve programs and services
- An improved public narrative about people who experience homelessness can strengthen the ongoing and future efforts to combat homelessness in L.A.
In the struggle to create access to housing and services, participants said the three most urgent issues were a lack of housing availability and mental health services, along with discrimination in case management.
Jon Christian, a participant in the focus group who was formerly unhoused, said the biggest issue is a lack of affordable housing.
“There’s a lot of nimbyism and a lot of zoning laws,” Christian said. “Every time they want to build in a neighborhood that doesn’t want a building they take them to court to stop the building. It's a catch-22. The funding is there.”
Christian said beyond the current eviction moratorium, there needs to be a dedicated fund from the city that helps keep housing insecure renters in their homes. People at risk for eviction were able to apply for pandemic relief funds, but they will expire, leaving people to rely on charitable organizations to fill that gap.
Miguel Santana, co-chair of the committee's housing and homelessness action team and president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation, said the lack of a coordinated effort mostly affects people living on the street.
“Despite the unprecedented investment of dollars to this issue, the reason why we haven’t made progress is because there is no plan, there is no one in charge, no transparency and accountability and no urgency,” he said.
Santana said despite efforts from individual city council members and nonprofits working with unhoused people, the lack of coordination affects the ability to advocate for the region in Sacramento and Washington, DC because there isn’t one shared ask.
“There is no other issue that we deal with as a society that we treat that way,” Santana said. “There's clarity about our education system. We understand that transportation is a regional system that needs a regional approach.”
LAHSA welcomes the opportunity to work with all stakeholders to create a region-wide plan with shared goals and metrics.
LAHSA spokesperson Ahmad Chapman said the focus group results reinforce the agency's belief that the status quo is unacceptable.
“We need more coordination among all stakeholders working to end homelessness in LA County,” Chapman said in an email. “LAHSA welcomes the opportunity to work with all stakeholders to create a region-wide plan with shared goals and metrics. Homelessness is an all-hands-on-deck emergency that requires all of us to work together to bring our unhoused neighbors home.”
The report builds on a previous report by the Committee that explored a plan for homelessness governance in L.A.