Thu, Nov

The Unhoused:  Candidates Talk while LA City Council and County Supes Are A Mess


THE EASTSIDER - Last month, I wrote a couple of articles on how LA City and LA County are handling the homeless crisis.

Aside from lawsuits, the City opted for 15 Councilmembers running the show in each of their fiefdoms.

You can read about it here. 

At about the same time, LA County decided to forget that they basically run LAHSA, and decided to create yet another entity.  Here’s from the Boards own action item: 

Revised recommendation as submitted by Supervisors Barger and Solis: Adopt the seven Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness (BRCH) recommendations; direct the Chief Executive Officer to maximize continuity of analysis and implementation of BRCH recommendations by working in consultation with the Executive Director of the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness and staff, as well as any subject matter experts, as necessary, until such time that the County has established the new County entity and appointed a leader of such entity or as otherwise determined by the Board; and report back to the Board quarterly, with written status reports on the implementation of the following actions:

Instruct the Chief Executive Officer and BRCH staff to take the following actions and report back to the Board in writing quarterly on the status:” 

Back in April, it was clear that the City and County were headed in different directions.  LA City agreed to settle a lawsuit from the LA Alliance for Human Rights, was to open up enough beds over the next 5 years to house 60% of the City’s  homeless.  

For their part, LA County , through their very expensive outside attorney, decided to sue.   As the LA Times characterized the County position: 

Skip Miller, a partner with the Miller Barondess law firm and outside counsel for L.A. County in the case, said in a statement: “This lawsuit has no merit with regard to the county. It is between the plaintiffs and the city, and we’re glad they settled. We intend to litigate and win this case.”

The county is “doing everything possible to address homelessness without stigmatizing it as a crime,” Miller added. “Any assertion that the county has failed on this obligation is utterly baseless.”  

September Upside Down Updates

Until a few days ago, the City was signing on to a settlement, while the County was going to sue over the settlement.  What a difference a week or so makes.  Now, we have LA County settling with LA Alliance, and the City of Los Angeles demanding to go after LAHSA itself. 

On September 12, the LA Times reported that the County was settling their lawsuit against the Alliance.  

“Under the agreement, the county will fund services at interim and permanent housing that the city has or will build as part of the previously announced settlement. 

The county also committed to increasing the number of so-called multidisciplinary teams from 22 to 34. They most often include mental health and substance abuse services personnel, outreach workers, housing navigators and trained medical staff.

In addition, the deal will nearly double — from 5.5 to 10 — the number of Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement teams, which serve Angelenos attempting to overcome severe mental illness. The county also promised to establish 300 additional substance use and mental health beds, according to a copy of the term sheet. 

It was unclear how much money the county was committing to spend above the $532 million it already puts toward homeless services, because the total is pegged to the number of new housing units the city produces”. 

About a week later, 4 members of the City Council decided that they should take a look at LAHSA, and come up with more City oversight. As the LA Daily News reported. 

“In a motion filed Friday, Martinez and councilmen Kevin de León, Curren Price and Paul Krekorian sought a report on the governance structure of LAHSA and how the city could increase direct oversight over homeless outreach and services. They also sought a strategy for the city to transition to its own system to coordinate services for unhoused individuals, along with possibly creating a department, office or division for in-house homeless services.” 

And if you want a really good laugh, check out this whopper: 

“The motion will come before the council’s Homelessness and Poverty committee, which is chaired by de León. A spokesperson for de León told City News Service that the motion “seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of the city to assume the responsibilities that would otherwise fall under LAHSA.” 

The Takeaway

This is total dysfunction. LA City has never really dealt with the homeless, going all the way back to Skid Row in the 70’s. Measure HHH was a joke, producing a handful of super expensive housing units that ate up the $1.2 Billion dollars, while doing nothing to cope with the magnitude of the crisis.  And the current system of each Councilmember doing their own thing in dealing with the homeless was doomed before takeoff. 

The County is not much better. While the City’s function of temporary housing is a manageable concept, the real bucks are in providing support and a path to re-entry into the mainstream population.  That means, mental health, substance abuse, medical, training resources that require a large number of public healthcare employees who simply don’t exist. 

The County’s answer has been to create a monster called LAHSA (along with the City), which also doesn’t work.  And the County’s latest answer is to appoint another Blue Ribbon Committee to do what? 

For those interested, I did a recap of all this last month, which you can find here. 

That analysis was simple, brutal, and stands true today:

With over half a billion dollars/yr in funding, it seems pretty clear that the taxpayers, as well as the homeless, are not getting much of a bang for the buck. Both LA City and the County are not making significant progress in shrinking the ranks of the homeless, much less actually transitioning them to being able to re-enter society with permanent lodging.  

Whether Karen Bass or Rick Caruso wins the Mayor contest, good luck.  Of course Bass will “legislate”,  while Caruso will “do something,”  as I wrote in an earlier piece. My money is on doing something.

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch. )