Homelessness in Los Angeles has steadily grown worse over the years since the Great Recession struck in 2008, but city officials hope a new "Homeless Help Desk" can help get people off the street.
The Help Desk is a one-stop shop where people can get access to information about nearby shelters, hygiene stations, free meals, medical assistance, and even the support they need to transition back into permanent housing.
“Homeless Angelenos are too often unaware of how close they may be to a warm meal, a shower, or even a place to live,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement announcing the grand opening. “The Homeless Help Desk will offer a one-stop shop to make it easier to find basic services and begin their transition into supportive housing.”
The Homeless Help Desk will be staffed by members of Mayor Garcetti's Volunteer Corps and participants in the Older Workers Employment Program - some of whom have been homeless themselves and know the issues people face on the streets.
City Councilmember Jose Huizar issued a motion that directed the City to authorize an agreement with Los Angeles Health and Safety Agency to convert a previously unused kiosk into the information center.
“Every day we see the growing crisis of homelessness all around us,” Councilmember Huizar wrote. “Converting this otherwise empty City property into a local service hub to allow LAHSA outreach workers and our team of volunteers better serve those experiencing homelessness in the Civic Center and Little Tokyo areas is an additional tool to help those in need.”
The help desk has opened as crews have been working overtime to clear a backlog of requests to clean-up homeless encampments. Sanitation officials told city leaders that it would cost an additional $814,637 on top of this year's budget to pay for the Clean Streets LA Crews, which is tasked with clearing out the camps.
The Homeless Help Desk is located in a kiosk behind City Hall East at 200 N. Los Angeles Street and will be open six days a week. Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.