Buscaino and Koretz Urge LA City Council to Prepare to Retreat from the Homelessness Service – Pasadena Star News
Following the Los Angeles City Council’s review of the governance structure of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority on Friday, June 18, two Los Angeles city councilors filed a motion to prepare the city for a possible withdrawal from the agency.
âThe definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcomeâ¦ in the case of LAHSA, when the information, resources and services the organization provides continue to lag behind what we need to accommodate Angelenos. “And bounce back, then every option for reform – including severing those ties – should be on the table,” said Councilor Paul Koretz, who presented the motion with Councilor and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino.
City councils cited LAHSA’s nearly $ 1 billion annual budget allocated by city, county, state, and federal governments to ensure LAHSA conducts road missions and provides shelter and permanent shelter to uninhabited Angelenos.
LAHSA executive director Heidi Marston responded to the request in a statement to City News Service that read:
âIn the past three years, LAHSA and its partners have permanently housed more than 66,000 homeless people. Homelessness is complex and the solution has to break through levels of jurisdiction. That is why we have to take courageous measures together with the city and district as well as with our state and federal partners, reduce bureaucracy and pave a quick path to permanent living space for all of our uninhabited neighbors. “
âThe application will be referred to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee for further discussion. The status quo is unacceptable and we look forward to addressing the proactive changes and recommendations for how to proceed, âadded Marston.
The motion, if approved by the city council, would direct the city administration office and senior legislative analyst, assisted by the city attorney, to report on actions required for the city’s withdrawal from LAHSA. The CAO and CLA are also instructed to report on the tax, operational, and service impacts of withdrawing and contracting directly with homeless service providers. Finally, the CAO and CLA, with the assistance of the Housing and Community Investment Department, would instruct the city council to submit a draft and recommendations for the inclusion of services, housing and any other homeless service offerings within a city council or new agency. and what budget steps would be required to achieve this quickly.
John Wickham of the Chief Legislative Analyst’s office gave council members an overview of the structure of the LAHSA and a comparison with other agencies on Friday.
Wickham told council members that key issues within LAHSA include:
- Elected officials are not integrated into the center of the system;
- The system is complex, which is partly necessary due to the complexity of the district, its political systems and its population;
- Parts of the system have authority without accountability; and
- Parts of the system are held accountable but have no authority.
“In restructuring the system any way it goes, these are some of the things that need to be addressed,” said Wickham.
The public-private partnership of the LAHSA includes the city, district, state and federal government on the public side and more than 300 service providers on the private side who work under contracts. Private service providers include nonprofits, religious organizations, for-profit corporations, education systems and health care providers, Wickham said.
During the meeting, Buscaino expressed frustration at the LAHSA’s lack of transparency towards the city, citing the idea that the agency does not provide data on unaccomodated residents who are not accepting services or housing.
“Without knowing critical information about who has been offered accommodation and who has turned it down, the city cannot enforce our anti-camping laws and distinguish between those who want help and those who don’t,” said Buscaino. âThis leads to the proliferation of dangerous, inhuman camps, where innocent people who experience homelessness are exposed to criminals who hunt them down. It’s not compassionate – it’s inconsiderate. “
According to Wickham, one of the problems within the system is the âweak linksâ. He compared the system to a soccer team, where one weak link can bring down the entire team.
âThere are so many parties in the system at different levels of government, all of which are essential to the system. You need to become more effective and efficient. We have to work to identify them, âsaid Wickham.
âWhen we look around our city I don’t have to tell you, it is clear that what we are doing is just not working and we have to ask ourselves whether we are really going to resolve this crisis with the utmost urgency âSaid Council President Nury Martinez.
âFor several months, Members, we have had conversations about housing, public relations, street engagement and in each of these conversations you have raised concerns about the role and effectiveness of LAHSA. So we now need to do a full review of the current system to understand the existing gaps and what needs to change to better serve all of our communities as well as the unhodged populations, âshe said.
The city council also noted that city controller Ron Galperin reported that LAHSA missed the city’s goals and the agency failed to meet five of the city’s goals in fiscal year 2018/19.
Councilors asked Wickham how much of LAHSA’s ineffectiveness is caused by a lack of housing, and Wickham stated that the problem is caused by both supply and operation.
LAHSA’s Marston said, “There’s no question that what is on offer affects the performance of the system as there is nowhere for people to go.”
She said that in LA County, 500,000 affordable housing units are not meeting demand and about 30,000 permanent support housing units are not meeting demand ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She added that LAHSA’s system of moving someone from homelessness to a permanent solution has “become very complicated, which is why we are doing this work on LAHSA’s governance and strategic plan”.
Councilor Kevin de Leon asked Wickham if the city could create its own continuum of care instead of being dependent on LAHSA. A continuum of care is a regional planning body that coordinates the financing of housing and homeless assistance for families and people in need. LAHSA is the lead agency for the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, which includes all LA County’s cities except Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena. These three cities have their own supply continents.
Wickham said it would have to undergo an extensive review process by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to receive federal funding. He added that the city of Atlanta used to be part of a regional organization and decided to start its own. The process took about three years.
De Leon asked for Wickham’s opinion on what the city should do: reform LAHSA or create a city continuum for the city of Los Angeles. Wickham declined to respond, but said the chief legislative analyst had reviewed the city’s options and would present them at a later city council meeting.
Wickham’s presentation on Friday comprised three chapters of a six-chapter assessment by LAHSA. Next week the city council will hear a review of the three remaining chapters.
âMembers, this discussion is not about listening to ourselves speak. I expect recommendations from several of you and hope that you can turn to our Homeless and Poverty Committee and come up with additional recommendations for that panel to take action, âMartinez said.
The councilors put the motion up after Wickham’s presentation. Next, it will be submitted to the city’s Homeless and Poverty Committee for review.