Welcome to a special edition of my “Neighborhoods First Newsletter,” focused exclusively on a single pressing issue: homelessness in Los Angeles.
The crisis of homelessness in our city should haunt us, and we must have a focused, strategic, relentless strategy to address it, getting people off the street and into housing and needed services. It is an issue that is and will remain at the top of my agenda.
Last week, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of its biannual Homeless Count. Despite considerable efforts and although the region has housed more homeless people and at a faster rate than ever before, homelessness in Los Angeles has increased – significantly. It is easy to feel discouraged or daunted, but there is also reason for hope.
There is a countywide strategy in place that has housed 20,000 people in recent years; it can be scaled and expanded. Among elected officials, government organizations, service agencies, businesses and neighborhoods, there is a focus on this issue and a spirit of collaboration that I have never seen before. And there are success stories every day of people being housed. You can read about some of those stories below.
I am not going to make bold pronouncements or lofty promises. The work ahead is daunting, and it is going to take time, effort, and money. We have a long road ahead. This special edition of my newsletter will detail some of the things government, business and the community are doing to take steps on that road and address this crisis.
Homeless Count Results
On May 11, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The results were heartbreaking, although not all surprising. The biannual census found that homelessness has increased 16% countywide and 12% in the City of Los Angeles. The population of homeless veterans decreased countywide, but the population of homeless families increased 12%, and the number of people suffering from mental illness rose sharply. Of 43,000 homeless people, 29,000 (or 70%) of them go without shelter, contributing to the 85% increase in encampments.
“Even though Los Angeles is housing more homeless people at a faster rate than it ever has, homelessness is increasing, and the percentage that find shelter is decreasing,” Mike said of the results. “We need a focused and relentless effort to end this crisis, and get people off our streets. I’m glad to be a part of our new Committee on Homelessness, and I have several proposals, and will continue to search for more.”
You can review the full results of the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/265070449/Homeless-Count-Results
OpEd: Renewing Our Focus on Homelessness
Read Mike’s opinion editorial about homelessness in Los Angeles and some of the solutions he and his colleagues on the City Council are offering to get people off the streets and into a home. The piece was originally published in The Argonaut on May 14, 2015 and was also featured in Westside Today, the Westchester Hometown News and the Huffington Post.
Read the opinion editorial here: https://www.11thdistrict.com/renewing_our_focus_on_homelessness
Community Solutions: Pacific Palisades Homeless Task Force
Formed in October of 2014, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness is a neighbor-driven effort to address homelessness in the Pacific Palisades. The Task Force, which meets monthly, is divided into sub committees that focus on specific tasks and objectives, including helping the homeless members of the community move into permanent housing.
Visit PPTFH’s website to find out more about the Task Force, its subcommittee and its members, and please email PacPaliHTF@gmail.com if you would like to receive email notifications about the Task Force or if you would like to volunteer.
Community Solutions: People Assisting the Homeless in Westchester
Thanks to a partnership between People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), the Westchester Business Improvement District, the Drollinger Foundation and the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa, homeless service workers are visiting the Westchester area twice a week to conduct street outreach and offer assistance to homeless people in the area. Westchester neighbors who would like to request service workers on their street should call PATH’s hotline at 424-262-6333.
Community Solutions: Venice Forward
In January, Mike convened a gathering of dozens of government agencies, social service providers, local businesses, neighborhood leaders, and elected officials to form an organization to focus specifically on ending homelessness in Venice. Inspired by organizations such as Hollywood 4WRD and Home for Good, the organization’s mission statement and goals are simple:
VENICE FORWARD is a collaborative effort to end homelessness in Venice by:
- Creating a functional Venice-centric casework collaborative, supportive of and integrated with the SPA 5 Coordinated Entry System (CES) and a Housing First philosophy, that rapidly moves the Venice homeless population into housing and supportive services.
- Creating a network of willing community partners to support such a collaborative and secure additional resources, such as housing vouchers and affordable housing.
- Sharing success stories publicly to create community awareness of progress and engage more people in problem solving.
Venice Forward has been meeting monthly, focusing attention on the quickest and most efficient ways to get people off the street and into housing.
See some of the success stories from agencies participating in Venice Forward below and find out more at https://www.11thdistrict.com/venice_forward_goals_objectives
Home for Good & CES – Permanent Supportive Housing is the Solution
Home For Good is an Action Plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County by 2016. The plan was launched in December 2010 by the Business Leader’s Task Force on Homelessness, a partnership of United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
After conducting research and eliciting extensive community input, the Business Task Force created the Home For Good action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County by 2016. The Action Plan establishes clear goals and concrete steps that all stakeholders and community members can take to end homelessness.
Home for Good has led the charge to coordinate agencies and jurisdictions in Los Angeles County around a strategic plan. Based on the philosophy of “Housing First,” Home for Good has brought everyone together to create a “Coordinated Entry System (CES)” that prioritizes those most in need for housing, and moves them in rapidly. Since Home for Good’s inception just four years ago, Los Angeles County has housed more than 20,000 homeless people.
Find out more about Home for Good and CES at http://homeforgoodla.org/
Given the daunting numbers revealed in the 2015 Homeless Count, it is easy to feel like homelessness is intractable, but agencies throughout Los Angeles are achieving success every day – helping people, one-on-one, to find housing and supportive services. These agencies and their clients need to be applauded and recognized for the great work they do.
Find more success stories from local service agencies at https://www.11thdistrict.com/venice_forward_success_stories
Success Story: Levi
Levi first came to Safe Place for Youth almost a year ago. Homeless and sleeping on the beach, Levi presented as an emotional, yet hopeful young woman. As Levi started attending Drop-In on a regular basis, she involved herself in some of the activities including creative writing, art groups and women’s group. Through the art and craft activities facilitated by DAZ Foundation counselors, Levi made a connection with a counselor, developing trust over the weeks and leading her to request regular counseling sessions. Through counseling, Levi was able to safely explore her difficult upbringing and the traumas that she had survived throughout her young adult life. Not long after, Levi began to engage with Safe Place for Youth’s Case Manager and started forming safe relationships with other staff members and volunteers. Engagement in Case Management first assisted Levi to obtain her birth certificate and ID and then to explore housing options.
Approximately 10 months ago, Levi learned, through Safe Place for Youth’s on-site medical clinic — run by Venice Family Clinic — that she was pregnant. Although initially frightened, Levi spoke at length with her Case Manager and counselor about doing whatever it took for her to create a safe and stable life for her child. With the assistance of her Case Manager, she attended regular pre-natal OBGYN appointments and through Safe Place for Youth’s partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Levi was able to secure emergency shelter at their Youth Center on Highland, where she stayed for several months. With the support of her Case Managers from Safe Place for Youth and The Center, Levi applied for housing through Venice Community Housing. Levi was accepted into VCH Transitional Living Program (TLP) whereby she has continued to progress in her goals of health, sense of safety, stability and independence.
The staff and volunteers at the TLP assisted Levi to gather all the basics to care for her child (including a car seat, crib, diapers, and a changing table), and they assisted her to enroll in birthing and infant CPR classes through the Sanctuary. Levi’s Case Manager at Safe Place for Youth continued to support her, to attend her pre-natal medical appointments and linked her to a Doula (through a new partnership with the Mama Circle). Levi formed a quick bond with her Doula, who provided her with pre-pregnancy and labor support. Recently, Levi gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Both mom and baby are doing great thanks to the support and successful partnerships Safe Place for Youth has with many community based organizations.
Success Story: Paul
Paul, 72, grew up in an impoverished family in Louisiana with nine brothers and sisters. His upbringing was rough and he made some poor decisions as an adolescent that resulted in a 25 year prison sentence. Though Paul had experience in the culinary field, he was unable to find work after his release due to his criminal record and he soon became homeless.
After nearly three decades on the streets of Venice, Paul accepted help from St. Joseph Center. Unfortunately he had to overcome more than his share of obstacles on his journey to a new home. It took two years to get an official copy of his birth certificate from the State of Louisiana and then another year and a half to obtain a Social Security card. Once all of the necessary documents were collected, Paul began looking at apartments. Paul ultimately signed his lease on March 15, 2015 for a unit in Mid-City with a backyard where his dog P-Nut can play. Throughout this extraordinarily prolonged process, Paul maintained a positive attitude, stating more than once, “I am not homeless, I am houseless.” Today, Paul has a house he calls home.
Success Story: Chris
A great success story from The Teen Project, operator of The Teen Project’s – The PAD in Venice, CA, one of the many Venice Forward agencies working to end homeless in our community:
Chris had been homeless for two years in Michigan after his adoptive mom lost her fight to cancer. Our team heard his story and was immediately hooked. From that moment forward we took him as one of our own. Timothy Pardue, our new PAD manager took Chris under his wing and spent the next three days by his side, even taking him to a Clippers game. The following Tuesday we were able to secure a bed in an amazing 9 month rehab program. After rehab we will help him in the next phase of his life to gain stable permanent housing and employment.
Success Story: Mary
Chaplain Steven Weller of the LAPD’s Homeless Task Force found Mary (not her real name) an 82 year-old woman, who had been sleeping in the bushes at the Venice library. Pastor Weller’s wife, Regina, got to know her and developed a friendship. Regina listened as she described how awful it was to awaken to the gas fumes from passing cars every morning, and people staring at her. One of the most painful issues in her life was that she was estranged from her schizophrenic son. She had a dream of writing a book about her life. Venice Beach Detail Officer Kristan Delatori and the Wellers drove her to SHARE! Collaborative Housing, where the owner met her and she felt comfortable. She saw her bed under a window looking out on green plants, and the kitchen where she can cook. With tears in her eyes, she said “I think I’m in heaven.” She came out to thank the officers. She has stayed in touch with Regina. As this is a collaborative effort, the exciting part is that the owner assisted the woman in reunifying with her son after many years. He’s living in the same neighborhood and they spend time together daily.
Success Story: Ed
Ed, a very successful carpenter, became chronically homeless in Venice after an injury left him unable to work. When the Venice Outreach Team from PATH met Ed, his injuries and health had deteriorated. PATH was able to connect him with interim housing at PATH’s West LA, and during his stay, he was able to improve his health. Now, according to PATH, Ed was able to sign a lease and move into a new apartment. Currently Ed is enjoying photography, and has started a new business in Venice. Congratulations Ed and welcome home!
Building Housing: VCHC Breaks Ground on Westside Permanent Supportive Housing Project
The real solution to homelessness is housing — and March 5 was a good day for building housing for our homelessness neighbors! Mike and neighborhood partners broke ground on the new Gateway Apartments in Del Rey and got to celebrate the construction of 20 new units of permanent supportive housing for homeless and chronically homeless people on the Westside. The project is being developed in partnership between the Venice Community Housing Corporation and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, and St. Joseph Center will provide case management services for all residents once the apartments open in 2016.
“Twenty units is just a drop in the bucket for what we need to address homelessness in Los Angeles, but I am phenomenally proud to see progress being made toward real, sustainable solutions to getting people off the street and into housing,” Mike said. “Other projects in my district are being built by PATH – Making it Home and 1736 Family Crisis Center, and I am determined to find more opportunities to build affordable and permanent supportive housing in CD11. I am really grateful to VCHC, HCHC, St. Joe’s, LA City, LA County, and all the funders for making this happen — and to the Del Rey Neighborhood Council for its support!”
Building Housing: PATH Project Breaks Ground
On July 10, 2014, Mike joined his predecessor, Bill Rosendahl for the groundbreaking of a new permanent supportive housing facility that will provide 23 units of housing for homeless people on the Westside.
“This is a wonderful project, a genuine solution to getting people off the street,” Mike said at the event. “Now, we just need 1,000 more projects in L.A. just like this.”
Find out more about the PATH Villas at Del Rey at: http://www.epath.org/press-releases/new-permanent-housing-for-del-reys-homeless-to-celebrate-groundbreaking-ceremony-thursday-july-10th
Forming a Special Committee to Focus on Homelessness
In mid-April, the City CAO released a report stating that with approximately 23,000 homeless individuals living in the City of Los Angeles, the City is spending more than $100 million annually on the issue with no focused plan to address it (more on the report below). On the heels of the report, Mike joined Council President Herb Wesson and Councilmembers José Huizar, Gil Cedillo, Curren Price Jr. and Felipe Fuentes on April 22 to introduce legislation establishing an Ad Hoc committee that will create comprehensive policy on homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. Mike will serve as vice Chair of the Ad Hoc committee.
“We must do everything we can to end homelessness throughout Los Angeles by providing those who need it and want it with housing and appropriate services,” Mike said. “That is going to take collaborative effort, innovative approaches, A LOT more affordable housing, and implementation of our countywide ‘Housing First’ strategy. I’m not going to rest until we get it done. It is a daily focus for me and my team and I’m excited to begin working with Councilmember Huizar and my other colleagues to bring a focused approach to homelessness through this new committee.”
Find out more about the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness at: https://www.11thdistrict.com/councilmembers_call_for_committee_to_address_homelessness
Alternatives to Sidewalk Encampments
For nearly a decade, the City of Los Angeles has been bound by the Jones Settlement, the result of a lawsuit saying it is cruel and unusual punishment to forbid people from sleeping on the street if there is not enough housing or shelter. As part of the legal agreement, the City has effectively allowed sidewalk homeless encampments to spring up throughout the City. On April 29, Mike submitted a motion to the City Council, asking for city officials to explore how to better meet the constitutional mandate by providing alternatives to sleeping on the sidewalk — such as shared housing, bridge housing, or transitional shelters.
“It is unconscionable that our default policy is to tell 29,000 people to sleep on the sidewalk,” Mike said. “We have effectively created a city of encampments, and we have focused our policy discussion on the right to sleep on the street. That does a disservice to people who are homeless, and it does a disservice to our neighborhoods. We need to raise the bar of our policy and of our humanity and spend more time, energy and money accommodating the right to sleep in housing, and the right to shelter.”
Read the motion here: https://www.11thdistrict.com/bonin_calls_for_more_housing_options_for_homeless
Creating Units for the Coordinated Entry System
In recent years, government agencies, philanthropic organizations, businesses and individuals have rallied behind the principle of “Housing First,” and have worked together to develop a “Coordinated Entry System (CES)” to help move people from the streets and into housing and proper services. Councilmember Jose Huizar and Mike introduced an earlier motion to make CES an official City policy. The strategy is smart and promising, but relies on an adequate supply of available housing, which does not yet exist. Mike submitted a motion on April 29, asking officials to determine if the City can require or incentivize that affordable housing units being built as a result of state “density bonuses” be used for the placement of homeless people via CES.
Read the motion here: https://www.11thdistrict.com/bonin_calls_for_more_housing_options_for_homeless
Accessing the County’s Flexible Housing Program
The County of Los Angeles has a successful program, granting rapid housing to homeless people who are frequent users of the County’s Department of Health Services. The program saves the County money, and helps house the chronically homeless. With some Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department units facing significant call loads to respond to homeless people in distress, Mike submitted a motion asking the City Administrative Officer to negotiate with the County to determine if the City can buy into the “Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool,” or start a pilot program in certain neighborhoods with large chronic homeless populations.
Read the motion here: https://www.11thdistrict.com/bonin_calls_for_more_housing_options_for_homeless
LAPD, Homelessness and Mental Health
Mike is working on several efforts to improve training and resources for LAPD officers to properly respond to and help people who are homeless and suffering from mental health issues.
Mike is working closely with County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office to make sure the County and the City work well together in implementing “Laura’s Law.” Laura’s Law is a California state law that provides community-based, assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) to a small population of individuals who meet strict legal criteria and who – as a result of their mental illness – are unable to voluntarily access community mental health services. The law is named for Laura Wilcox, who was shot and killed at the age of 19 by a man with untreated severe mental illness. Laura’s Law and similar AOT laws across the country have successfully enabled people with severe mental illness to receive the treatment they need in the community. The state law, which passed in 2002, requires each county to implement its own program. In 2014, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved funding for the expansion of Laura’s Law. The County will begin implementing the law this month. We will be working to make sure LAPD is properly trained to use this important tool.
In the budget for the next fiscal year, Mike also secured funds for more crisis intervention training for LAPD officers, and is working closely with Police Chief Charlie Beck and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to create more SMART teams – where police officers are partnered with clinicians from the County Department of Mental Health to help respond better to people who are suffering from mental illness.
Read Mike’s motion about implementing Laura’s Law here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/263534455/Mike-Bonin-Laura-s-Law-Motion
CAO Report: How LA Spends It’s Money on Homelessness
On April 16, Miguel Santana, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Los Angeles, released a report requested by Mike and his colleague Gil Cedillo, outlining the shortcomings of the City’s approach to homelessness and calling for a smarter, coordinated strategy to end homelessness instead of managing it.
In his report, Santana said that an array of City departments spend $100 million dealing with the symptoms and societal consequences of homelessness, but lacks a coordinated strategic plan to house people and get them off the streets permanently. He called for diverting funding to services, case management and housing.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to follow-up on his suggestions and implement a real plan that realigns our spending towards solutions,” Mike said of the report.
You can read the full report here: https://www.scribd.com/…/2…/CAO-Report-on-Homelessness-in-LA
Homelessness Program Funding in the City Budget
Mayor Garcetti’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 starts to make a significant reinvestment in homeless services. Mayor Garcetti proposed $10 million in the budget for programs like the Winter Shelter Program, the Homeless Family Solution System, Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency Operations, crisis housing, and more. This allocation is up from last year, by nearly $1 million. The mayor’s proposal creates 10 more Emergency Response Teams for LAHSA, dedicated solely to Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Also, Mike secured an additional $1 million in the City Budget for homeless services that may be recommended by the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness in the coming months. It is just a down payment on the tens of millions the City of Los Angeles must invest in genuine solutions.
Ticket Clinics: City Attorney Helps Homeless Address Citations
Earlier this Spring, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer re-launched his Homeless Citation Clinic, where his office helps homeless participants clear outstanding citations that can impede access to housing and other resources, and connect participants with key service providers.
More than two hundred people sought their help in a single day in April, and thirty members of the City Attorney’s staff volunteered to assist them. They also linked participants with thirteen non-profit service providers and public organizations, including Legal Aid, the Homeless Authority, the Public Defender, and the Departments of Public Social Services, Mental Health and Health Services.
The Clinic was highly successful, and the City Attorney has committed to organize similar clinics across the City.
The City, the County, and the US Government are making a major push to house our homeless veterans.
Last year, the City housed 3,375 homeless veterans. Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new federal grant funding to further progress towards his goal. As part of this effort, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) was awarded almost $13 million in new federal funds to provide housing for homeless veterans and chronically homeless people. The award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was a record allocation for Los Angeles and will provide funding for supportive housing for 747 chronically homeless individuals and families, including veterans in the City of Los Angeles. In addition to the HUD award, HACLA has set aside 600 additional vouchers to house homeless veterans.
Meanwhile, with the support of U.S. Rep Ted Lieu earlier this year the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced ambitious plans to open its West Los Angeles campus to permanent and temporary housing for veterans, and to place returning service members and their families in subsidized apartments throughout the county. The VA’s “action plan,” developed as part of a legal settlement, will prioritize severely disabled, mentally ill and women veterans for housing in largely abandoned buildings on its sprawling 387-acre property. The plan also calls for the VA to hire an urban planning firm to draw up a master land use plan for the West Los Angeles property to dramatically expand veterans services and appoint a special assistant reporting to VA Secretary McDonald to run the effort.
Find out more at http://www.losangeles.va.gov/news/GLAsHomelessStrategy.asp
- LANDLORD RECRUITMENT – There are currently more than 500 veterans with vouchers searching for homes. Thanks to the partnership of Mayor Garcetti, the Business Leaders Task Force, and housing agencies from City and County, Home for Good was able to launch Home For Heroes. The program needs participating landlords! Visit http://www.unitedwayla.org/homes-for-heroes/ to get involved.
- EXPANDED RESOURCES – Home For Good’s Funders Collaborative has received outstanding proposals in response to their RFP seeking to scale Coordinated Entry System (CES) throughout the county. They welcome additional public and private funders. Join them in supporting these projects, alongside the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Weingart Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, LAHSA, the VA, HACLA, County Board Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, DMH, DHS and many more.
- DEEPENED COORDINATION – There have been leaders who have stepped up to design and implement CES in each region of the county, and they are actively welcoming additional partners. Find the CES team near you.
- INCREASED AFFORDABLE HOUSING RESOURCES – Affordable Housing Resources are critical in stemming the tide of homelessness. The Building Homes and Jobs Act (AB1335) would bring tremendous resources to LA to that end. Learn more and send a letter of support here: http://www.housingca.org/#%21californians-for-homes-and-jobs/calh
- SUPPORT AND DEMAND MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND PERMANENT SUPPORTIVE HOUSING IN YOUR COMMUNITY – The supply of our housing must meet our demand. Ask your elected representatives to require more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in your neighborhood.
- SUPPORT LOCAL AGENCIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY – My staff is compiling a resource guide, listing the service agencies on the Westside and how to get involved. If you would like a copy, or would like to know who is part of the solution in your neighborhood, let us know here. Sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/jZMQP1M8Ua
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