Controller Issues Scathing Audit of L.A.'s Homeless Outreach


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The homeless outreach agency that was meant to move hundreds of people from the streets into housing, shelters or treatment for mental illness and substance abuse has failed dramatically to meet the goals of its contract with the city of Los Angeles, according to an audit scheduled to be released today by Controller Ron Galperin.

The audit found that, despite having more than doubled its staff of outreach workers in the last two years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority missed seven of nine goals during the 2017-18 fiscal year and five of eight last fiscal year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The goals that were set by the city are not unreasonable,” Galperin told The Times. “Quite frankly, they are (setting a) pretty low bar to begin with. If you can't meet the low bar, that's a problem.”

Outreach workers were supposed to place into permanent housing 10% of the homeless people they assessed. But in the fiscal year that ended in June, they placed only 4%, the audit reported, according to The Times. The goal for shelter placements was 20%, but they placed only 14%.

The discrepancies were greater for referrals to treatment: 6% for substance abuse and 4% for mental health. Both had goals of 25%.

In response to the criticism, the authority's director of operations, Heidi Marston, said they reflected an “unbalanced system.”

Los Angeles Tops The Country In Homeless Population

LAHSA, as the authority is commonly known, “can't place people in shelter or housing that has yet to be built or is blocked,” Marston said, according to The Times.

Marston said federal privacy rules prevented the authority from accurately reporting mental health and substance abuse referrals. As a result, she said, the agency no longer uses those goals.

While attributing some of the shortfalls to the underlying shortage of affordable housing and treatment resources in the city, the audit also criticized the city for setting fuzzy goals that weren't linked to the scale of the homelessness crisis and knocked the authority for not being able to meet them, The Times reported.

In its 2019 count, LAHSA reported that there were close to 60,000 homeless people living in the county, with more than 36,000 of them in the city. All but about 25% live on the streets.

Galperin said the audit, which began last year, took months to complete “partly because getting accurate and consistent numbers from LAHSA has been a challenge.”

The authority, according to the audit, “lacks a rigorous performance review process for its outreach activities. Moreover, data-driven decisions about the deployment of resources are not made because the information is neither timely nor accurate.”

In light of the city's chronic shortage of shelters, the report urged both the city and county to do more to provide short-term resources -- restrooms, showers, storage facilities and waste services -- to ameliorate living conditions on the street.

“There are things we can do immediately,” Galperin said, according to The Times. “You look at when civil emergencies happen around the world. This is what we have on our streets right how. Unfortunately, the city is not treating it quite as the emergency it is.”

Photo: Getty Images

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