• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

County commission proposes new homelessness entity

ByChad J. Johnson

Mar 18, 2022

A commission appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to examine how to improve homeless services is proposing the creation of a new position to oversee all homeless services in the county.

Without outlining the new post of czar, the eight commissioners said Wednesday they saw the need for more direct lines of accountability and better coordination for a crisis that involves many county departments.

The new chief would report directly to the board of oversight and have the power to “cut” agencies such as the county’s departments of public social services, mental health and health services, said Sarah Dusseault, co-chair of the commission.

“There was not one entity, one coordinated entity, one caring entity in the county that can ensure that all the spokes of the wheel are moving together,” Commissioner Wendy Greuel said, “and that relates to the areas of health and addictions, diversion, all those things that would help ensure that we can keep people on the streets.

The recommendation was the result of six months of working group meetings, dubbed the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness when appointed in July. Staff employed by the county sought input from staff of county supervisors, members of the Los Angeles City Council, trade associations, coalitions of faith leaders, county city officials, and civic groups like the Committee for Greater LA and Hollywood 4WRD.

The commissioners also proposed the creation of a “local solutions” fund that would direct a portion of the Measure H homelessness sales tax dollars approved by voters in 2017 to small towns across the county.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger have long pushed for more direct distribution of county homelessness funds to small towns in Los Angeles County.

Cities are “ground zero and essential partners in our fight against homelessness,” Barger said in a statement on the recommendations. “They know best what local housing solutions will work for their communities and homeless residents.”

In a presentation to the commission, El Monte City Manager Alma Martinez described the need to invest Measure H funds directly into cities so they can consistently fund their own anti-corruption programs. homelessness.

“We have to make sure that [cities] have access to the funding needed to launch new programs and continue to fund existing programs for homeless people,” Solis, who represents many small towns in the San Gabriel Valley, said in a statement.

Many details of the recommendations adopted on Wednesday, which were mostly broad in scope and few in detail, will be finalized in a report that the commission will consider at its next meeting on March 30 before submitting it to supervisors.

The commission had no input from the city of Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council Speaker Nury Martinez declined to name four commission members, saying the commission’s work would only block progress in solving the homelessness crisis.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement that it was “disappointing” that the city is not participating in the commission, saying it would make it “more difficult to implement some of these recommendations.”

It’s up to supervisors to decide what the new county-level homelessness entity will look like or how its leader will be chosen, if they choose to implement the recommendation, Dusseault said.

The future role of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is also unclear.

Officials have long agreed on the need for restructuring the main homeless services agency, a joint city-county authority, which has limited powers over tools that help people get off the streets and into housing. In 2020, LAHSA had already undergone a year-long audit by a Houston consulting firm and an internal review process.

The agency’s woes stem in part from the fact that it grapples with federal compliance and fractured governance with multiple commissions, boards, and councils tasked with diverse and sometimes competing tasks. He also responds to city and county political leaders while navigating city and county departments, as well as activist groups and nonprofit organizations that influence homeless policy. shelter.

On Wednesday, commissioners unanimously rejected the option to disband LAHSA altogether, but recommended that it be “streamlined.”

Their recommendation ultimately involved that LAHSA cease providing direct county-funded services — a majority being outreach — and that the new county entity coordinate those services instead, while allowing the agency to focus on its lead roles in managing federal homelessness funds, conducting the annual homeless count, and managing referrals to homeless housing.

“The goal was to streamline LAHSA so they could deliver excellence and data management and be the leader in relocation,” Dusseault said.