Thu, Jun

LAHSA: Why Fix What Is Fundamentally Broken?

WESTSIDE HOMELESS - They say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. 

But in the case of the bureaucratic white elephant known as LAHSA, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that for some thirty years has grown into a black hole of government spending and incompetence, why would Mayor Karen Bass offer any political or governmental good will to this taxpayer funded nightmare that can’t get out of its own way? 

A failed agency where the average salary ranges from $81,000 to $104,000, a place with exotic and peculiar job titles like IT Support at $62, 364 or $170,000 for Senior Data Scientists, one wonders just how much of their bloated annual budget without any semblance of success truly reaches a single unhoused individual? 

For if someone needed proof that the “homeless industrial complex” actually exists, one only need to visit LAHSA and it’s consistent record of failure as the population of homeless here in Los Angeles swells at an annual rate of 10% year-over-year with no relief in sight no matter how much is expended or appropriated, as there never seems to be enough money one can print that can actually solve or at least dent the ever growing population of homelessness in Venice or Los Angeles. 

For the failure begins at the top with Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, the former head of Saint Joseph’s Center, a so-called service provider that boasted a healthy growth and tripling of staffing and personnel under her woeful watch, was inexplicably rewarded and appointed by Bass to head LAHSA at a base salary of $430,000 earning more than Bass herself and even Joe Biden, the President of the United States!. 

And as it becomes more and more obvious that homelessness is in fact a California dilemma with LA County serving as Ground Zero, with the state accounting for 12% of the country’s overall population, but over 35% of the nation’s unhoused!

More importantly, because record keeping is suspect, just how many of the homeless here in LA County are truly Angelenos, and how many are just criminal transients who migrate to California and specifically Los Angeles because such street conditions are not just tolerated but enabled by city officials across the board!

By appointing herself to this governmental Titanic, Bass joins leftist progressive Lindsey Horvath, a freshman first-term LA County Supervisor who has no demonstrated record of dealing with homelessness in a practical and effective manner in her stint as a West Hollywood elected official.

For they say if you break it, you own it. But in the case of Bass, she is inheriting not only what is broken, but all of the Mayor’s horses and men cannot put LAHSA back together again! 

For the Mayor seems to believe hiring expensive bureaucratic operatives like Dr. Adams Kellum and now Lourdes Castro Ramirez will somehow change the culture, direction or decades of failure that seems embedded and part of an agency that clearly has run amok and gone astray with no stated timeline or actual plan to end the scourge of the streets of LA that has the county and city an embarrassment of failure by any reasonable policy standard. 

While cities like Houston, Texas have effectively turned the corner and reduced the street population and encampments, LA continues to aimlessly wander under the notion you can build your way out of this crisis and that an endless spicket of dollars will somehow correct things as those service providers and bureaucratic homeless officials laugh all the way to the bank courtesy of an exhausted taxpayer that has become immune to a situation that is worse today then yesterday, last week, last month or last year!

Closer to home here in Venice, some of the “low-hanging fruit” has been corrected, but for every clean-up there seems to be a one-step forward, with two-steps seemingly backward that cancels any visible progress!

For the slum-by-the-sea known as Venice Bridge Housing on Main Street continues to remain open despite overwhelming opposition to that failed social experiment, and the only question now is whether the median project will receive approval moving forward as the brittle opposition from CD-11 has been at best disappointing and to date, futile. 

You almost get the feeling that we’re being braced for yet another permanent homeless venue with beachfront views that some estimate at $1 million dollars a clip, only confirming that Venice will continue to be a “containment zone” for homelessness while other neighborhoods such as Pacific Palisades, Westchester and others continue to receive special treatment and that proverbial pass in responsibility of housing the unhoused. 

For here is the new boss, almost as bad as the old one? 

The only person who seems to be offering a real plan for Venetians is VNC Community Officer Clark Brown, who urged Councilwoman Traci Park to at least consider a task force to review a move that would move the unhoused to public parcels at LAX. That motion led to Park attending a recent VNC meeting and making her opposition to that rather practical solution obvious. 

For Clark Brown, a retired attorney and longtime Venetian is an elected community volunteer who has worked hard to mitigate the encampments of Venice since joining the VNC three years ago. Park in contrast and comparison is a paid politician, earning $218,000 annually, excluding a gas card, city vehicle, free health benefits and pension credits totaling over $300,00, making her like her predecessor Mike Bonin the highest paid city council member in America today along with her fourteen other cohorts on that 15-member governing body. 

So, if moving the homelessness out of Venice is not an option, what is? 

For the whole miserable process of addressing homelessness and the encampments that leads to spikes in real crime, gang activity, prostitution and open drug use on the streets of LA and here in Venice is depressing, as an actual plan of action is as distant as ever before despite all the emergency orders and obscene increases in spending that seems to just feed the fire of unaccountable actions that have made the problem clearly worse, and never better. 

For politicians like Bass or Horvath are seemingly owning the homeless issue by attaching themselves and their political reputations to this unbridled super agency known as LAHSA. But what most ask is when will the policy pendulum swing back to some sanity, and when will someone, anyone propose that after three decades, it’s time to end and abolish this Trojan Horse known as LAHSA? 

For the delusion of doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different outcome knows no reasonable bounds or standards. 


(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-year resident who covers the issue of homelessness and how it effects the neighborhood of Venice. A member of the Outreach and Oceanfront Walk Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Antonicello  has participated on four different occasions as a volunteer with LAHSA’s annual homeless count. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].  Nick is a contributor to CityWatchLA.com.)