The LA homeless industrial complex is an amazing phenomenon.
Nobody is asking questions about who is spending our tax dollars and what exactly are we getting back.
Clearly, the problem is getting worse. We always talk about the problem of homelessness but what about the solution?
Is the solution to keep giving more and more money that goes nowhere while bureaucrat hacks get richer?
Who in their right mind would continue to spend $1 billion annually for a failing product? Two Los Angeles city councilmembers—Joe Buscaino and Paul Koretz—asked that question recently while introducing a motion for the city to withdraw from the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority. The city pays LAHSA nearly $300 million a year to administer homelessness services on its behalf, yet the agency is unwilling to provide taxpayers or city departments basic information about its activities, such as a line-item scope of services or verifiable data on program outcomes. The agency receives nearly $1 billion in annual funding from federal, state, county, and city sources.
LAHSA’s core function is to provide street-level outreach to the homeless population in the Greater L.A. area, ensuring that they receive resources, shelter, and eventually permanent supportive housing with comprehensive services. Yet even with its vast budget, the agency is falling short. According to a 2019 audit from city controller Ron Galperin, LAHSA has failed to meet five outreach targets and in some cases has reported a mere 4 percent success rate, reaching only dozens of people in need, as measured against the tens of thousands of homeless living in encampments scattered across city and county streets, freeway underpasses, parks, and community spaces.
LAHSA’s failures are not the result of understaffing or underfunding in light of the surge of the homeless population in recent years. According to its own annual count, from 2015 to 2020 the number of homeless in Los Angeles grew steadily from 41,174 to 63,706, an increase of 55 percent. Yet during that five-year period, the agency’s annual payroll rose even faster, from $7.2 million in 2015 to $36.8 million in 2020—a 411 percent increase. That this massive increase hasn’t raised more red flags about financial mismanagement is testament to the power of the “homeless-industrial complex” in L.A.
John & Ken talked to Soledad about her piece and the gory details about how much money we have let these hacks steal from us.