Council unanimously approves plan for Ad Hoc committee proposed by Council President Wesson and Councilmembers Huizar, Bonin, Cedillo and Price – committee will create a comprehensive, focused plan to address homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. Councilmember Huizar will serve as chair.
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously (12-0) to create an Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness Wednesday. The legislation was proposed by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilmembers José Huizar, Mike Bonin, Gil Cedillo and Curren Price Jr. The motion to create the committee was introduced last week and seconded by Councilmember Felipe Fuentes.
The vote comes on the heels of a recent City CAO report that states with approximately 23,000 homeless individuals living in the City of Los Angeles and the City spending more than $100 million annually on the issue, the City has no focused plan to address homelessness.
Councilmember Huizar will serve as chair and Councilmember Bonin will serve as vice chair of the Ad Hoc committee.
“Homelessness has been, and continues to be, one of the most difficult issues I have had to confront as a public official,” said Council President Wesson. “The intractable nature of the problem, and the urgent need for a road-map to an effective comprehensive approach demands the focus that an Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness will provide. It is for this reason that I asked the City Council to create this Committee.”
Councilmember Huizar represents Downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row community and has led efforts to address homelessness on a number of fronts, including expanding funding to more than $3 million for Operation Healthy Streets cleanups in Skid Row and coordinating with Los Angeles County medical, mental health and social service departments to offer services directly to homeless individuals living on the streets. He has called on expanding this coordinated approach across the City whenever cleaning up homeless encampments, and has asked for additional funding in the 2015-2016 budget for outreach workers focused on the City.
“Homelessness in the City of Los Angeles has become a crisis of epic proportions” said Councilmember Huizar. “It is one of the biggest issues facing the City of Los Angeles, yet we lack a comprehensive plan to address it. In recent years our most constant course of action has consisted of reactionary litigation – that policy has clearly failed us. As a humanitarian, public safety and health issue, it is imperative that we act soon and with urgency. The Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness will work to create an effective, thorough and thoughtful plan to address homelessness in the City of Los Angeles.”
“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,” said Councilmember Bonin, who represents the Westside of Los Angeles, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the City. “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.”
"As Chair of Housing I am grateful that I have been able to work with the CAO to create the framework for this discussion,” said Councilmember Gil Cedillo. “I am glad that my colleagues have embraced the CAO’s report on homelessness, and welcome the collaboration to continue the discussion in the newly created AdHoc Committee. As a new member of the City Council I was shocked to find out that there is no homeless policy for Los Angeles, working with my colleagues I look forward to crafting our vision together.”
“The time has come for our city to tackle the growing issue of homelessness with a cohesive and comprehensive strategy, and furthermore, to put a stop to the fractured policies that have not encouraged a coordinated strategy,” said Councilmember Curren Price. Price represents a large portion of South LA in the Ninth District, which currently houses more than 160 homeless encampments - one of the highest concentrations of any region of the City. “This new committee will allow us to have a public conversation on this issue, forcing us to be accountable and ensuring that we connect this vulnerable population to the services they need.”
The Committee will focus on a range of directives, including:
o Improve Citywide coordination, and create a Homelessness Czar position. The City Homeless Czar would monitor adherence to policy, work with City departments and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), coordinate with County and other service providers, develop tracking mechanisms to measure City actions and expenditures related to homelessness, and report to the Mayor and Council on progress.
o Coordinate with L.A. County and consider establishing a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) agreement between the City and County to create a coordinated effort to address homelessness in Skid Row, improving mental health, addiction and housing services.
o Expand and focus coordination of Skid Row’s Operation Healthy Streets – While Councilmember Huizar and the City Council expanded Operation Healthy Streets funding in last budget (currently $3.7 million) resulting in more frequent cleanups, and Huizar’s office arranged for L.A. County medical, mental health, housing and social services to be a part of the program, the program should be expanded and institutionalized; and
o Identify funding to hire a City/County Operation Healthy Streets coordinator through the County’s Department of Health Services to take over coordinating outreach. Currently, CD14 organizes City/County, LAHSA service disbursement every other month.
o Adopt Huizar/Bonin legislation to fully implement the Coordinated Entry System (CES), which is a central tracking system that identifies high-needs homeless individuals to make sure they are prioritized for limited housing and medical, mental health and social service opportunities (recommended in CAO report). The pilot program was launched in Skid Row 2013 and has become a national model.
o Develop Citywide strategies for addressing homelessness and coordinate with City Attorney on laws and litigation that affect the homeless and the City’s response to homelessness.
o Increased Mental Health Services: Find funding to link pilot programs like the “The Mental Evaluation Unit” with LAPD to other City departments. The Mental Evaluation Unit enables a team of two LAPD officers and one County Department of Mental Health clinician to proactively provide homeless with information about services.
o Expand Outreach: Allocate more City money to LAHSA’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) to increase the number of LAHSA outreach workers who can assist city departments and council offices with outreach to the homeless.
o Increase encampment street cleanups throughout the City.
o Increase funding for permanent supportive housing and affordable housing, including through a value capture program, as described in O’Farrell/Huizar motion.
o Expand services Citywide, not just concentrated in Skid Row. Homelessness is a Citywide problem and the City should work to increase service in other communities. Though a large majority of the City of Los Angeles’ homeless population lives outside of Skid Row, this remains arguably one of the most difficult goals in addressing homelessness.