Councilmember José Huizar releases promising data from the first attempts of City and County collaboration to coordinate resources under Operation Healthy Streets
LOS ANGELES (September 10, 2014) —A groundbreaking effort to tackle the issue of homelessness in Downtown’s Skid Row has yielded promising results reports Councilmember José Huizar, whose office spearheaded the recent City/County service outreach before and during Operation Healthy Streets cleanups, which occurred from August 13-August 21 and continue every other month.
Dubbed the nation’s “homeless capital,” Los Angeles has long struggled with one of the largest homeless populations in the country, much of it concentrated in a one-square-mile section of Downtown Los Angeles. In an effort to go beyond street cleaning, Huizar led an effort with the support of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to provide County social, medical and mental health services to people living on the streets of Skid Row in advance of the City of Los Angeles’ street and sidewalk cleaning under its $3.7 million funded Operation Healthy Streets initiative. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority worked with Huizar’s office to coordinate the expanded program.
“Given this type of collaboration between the City and County hasn’t been done before, our expectations were really about just making sure we worked together to directly engage the homeless community in the streets where they live,” said Councilmember Huizar. “I couldn’t be more pleased with these results because they represent a start and tell us this is a viable path that we need to continue on. These are small steps forward, but they are important ones. Realizing the magnitude of the problem and committing to work together is the first step. Refining the process and increasing our results is the next. We are eager to bring more partners on board.”
In the first attempt at this collaborative effort over a two week period, 39 individuals were placed in crisis housing, three received emergency hotel vouchers, four were placed in interim housing, six were referred to veteran housing services and six were approved for permanent housing.
The Department of Health Services reported that 80 individuals received medical interventions that included treatment for scabies, cellulitis, fungal infections, wound care, pain, medication refills, medical assessments and referrals to surrounding clinics for acute medical issues.
The Department of Mental Health was able to link 27 individuals to mental health services while giving an additional 27 referrals for other services. Behavior Health Services referred nine individuals to detox and rehab and successfully admitted four individuals into a detox or rehabilitation facility.
LAHSA, charged with outreach coordination, provided 72 individuals with basic provisions, such as water, socks and other hygiene items. Sixty-nine individuals received bus tokens and 26 received a DMV discount voucher for a California ID.
The Los Angeles Police Department was instrumental in referring providers to specific individuals needing a variety of housing, medical and social services and Volunteers of America assisted by offering their facility as a central service hub during the outreach.
On top of social services provided, the Bureau of Sanitation reported 3.5 tons of waste removed from the Skid Row area. Also removed by Sanitation was 11 cubic yards of wastewater, 184 syringes and needles, 63 razor blades and eight knives. Feces and urine was cleaned up at 107 and 169 locations, respectively. Thirteen bags of personal items were delivered to 90-day storage.
In response to community support and interest, Councilmember Huizar will host a Homelessness Solutions Panel on September 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Downtown’s Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) on Spring Street. The discussion will revolve around a Downtown stakeholder initiated study that makes a series of recommendations around homelessness in the Los Angeles region (see study at planforhope.org).
Operation Healthy Streets is a program launched by the City a little over two years ago to address public health risks in the Skid Row area of Downtown Los Angeles. The program’s initial focus was on eliminating hazards that posed immediate health threats to those encamped on the sidewalks of Skid Row. The initiative was in response to a citation issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that identified the public health risks presented by Skid Row street and sidewalk conditions. There are an estimated 3,500 homeless individuals living in Skid Row.
City and County agencies involved in the new comprehensive effort include LAPD, County Department of Mental Health, L.A. City Attorney’s Office, County Department of Health Services, County Department of Public Health, Department of Public Social Services, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the L.A. Department of Public Works. The next comprehensive Operation Healthy Streets cleanup and service outreach effort is scheduled for October 8-October 17, 2014.