LA County Preps $402 Million for Homeless Services

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $402 million in voter-approved tax revenue on housing and health services for homeless individuals and families.

The newly-adopted budget targets a number of critical strategies in the county’s comprehensive Homeless Action Plan. It includes $120 million for emergency shelter and temporary housing, $73 million for programs that put newly homeless individuals back into housing, $49 million for permanent housing attached to health services and $30 million for outreach programs that connect homeless people with services.

The spending plan will fund both temporary and permanent housing, health services and outreach to homeless individuals for fiscal year 2018-19. Services are funded with revenue from Measure H, a one-quarter cent sales tax approved by LA County voters in 2017.

The tax is projected to raise $355 million annually for 10 years for housing projects for the homeless.

Tuesday’s expenditure includes $355.6 million in projected Measure H revenue for the current fiscal year and $46.6 million unspent Measure H revenue from last year, according to a report by the county’s chief executive officer.

Before the board meeting, all five supervisors gathered outside the Hall of Administration to announce that in the first nine months of Measure H programs, 45,000 families were moved into housing and 30,000 individuals were kept from becoming homeless.

Supervisors also unanimously approved the expansion of a program that sends teams of county health workers to meet homeless individuals and families across the San Gabriel Valley and connect them with housing and health services.

Teams will now work weeknights and weekends in an area bordered by the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and the Whittier Hills to the south.

“Homelessness is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. problem,” Supervisor Janice Hahn, Fourth District, said.

Los Angeles voters also approved Proposition HHH in November 2017. The parcel tax is expected to raise $1.2 billion in bonds for the construction of 10,000 units of housing.

California leads the nation with both the highest number of people experiencing homelessness – about 134,000, or 24 percent of the nation’s total – and the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless persons of any state at 68 percent, according to a California State Auditor report issued last month.

According to a January 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 554,000 people experience homelessness across the country. The count includes both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.

The number of homeless Americans increased for the first time in seven years, according to HUD. The largest increase occurred in California, where the homeless population increased by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.

California also has the highest rate of unsheltered homeless: more than two‑thirds of the state’s homeless live in vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks, or on the street, according to the audit.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, First District, said in light of rising rents and evictions, landlords and property owners must be brought into the conversation on prevention.

Over $900,000 in incentives for landlords was offered by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles to secure 400 housing units for disabled adults, but more must be done, Solis said.

A report by Phil Ansell, director of county homeless initiatives, said nearly half of LA County residents pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

Eighty-two percent of the lowest income residents, those making under $15,000, pay more than half their income on rent, according to county data.

The spending plan approved Tuesday will add 3,250 temporary shelter beds over the course of the current fiscal year.

Ansell said the bulk of $402 million in approved funding is going to outreach, temporary housing and permanent housing.

Los Angeles County spans 4,300 square miles divided into eight service planning areas.

The outreach team expansion approved Tuesday covers teams coordinated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, other government agencies and community organizations that reach homeless individuals in SPA 3.

Homeless encampments have sprung up along the San Gabriel Valley River and Rio Hondo, both located in SPA 3.

Supervisor Solis, whose district covers portions of SPA 3, said riverbeds should be a focus for county workers due to the high risk of brush fires there.

“It’s our responsibility as officials to offer services to any individuals open to receiving them,” Solis said. “It will take all of us.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Third District, said affordable housing is “critical in the fight against homelessness.”

Kuehl said rent control measures and a revolving loan fund in the county could help people who are evicted or whose lives are destabilized in other ways after life-changing events such as undergoing expensive medical procedures without insurance coverage.

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