Mayor Karen Bass Announces Homelessness Plan Update

Homeless encampment below freeway in Seattle WA

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - More than 4,000 Angelenos are expected to be housed through various efforts to address homelessness, Mayor Karen Bass announced Wednesday, including Bass' declaration of emergency and Inside Safe program.

During a media presentation Wednesday to provide update on the ongoing crisis, Bass acknowledged the long-term efforts of the City Council and Los Angeles voters who passed Measure HHH to provide funding to address homelessness in the city, as well as state and federal programs.

Bass reported 1,336 individuals entered interim housing and 614 individuals found permanent housing as a result of Measure HHH, while about 775 people were housed through emergency vouchers, 1,000 people found rooms through the mayor's Inside Safe program, 235 people found safe housing through master leasing and 94 veterans through Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers.

"We're in a very specific areas of red tape that we can `lock arms,' you've heard that phrase from day one," Bass said. "One of the things I wanted to see was a complete alignment of every level of government, and I'm excited to say that actually happened much quicker than I imagined."

Bass said her administration's strategy includes Inside Safe, her plan to bring people inside from tents and encampments; an emphasis on pushing housing forward including closing funding gaps in housing developments; cutting red tape by eliminating bureaucratic obstacles in the way of providing housing; working alongside the city's many partners; approving hundreds of acres of land across the city for development of affordable housing; and lastly, implementing ways to prevent homelessness such as new tenant protections.

Bass said her staff renewed a lease with the L.A. Grand Hotel to continue operation as temporary housing, where they will connect Angelenos with resources to permanent housing. Part of her strategy will be moving away from acquiring hotel spaces for temporary housing due to high costs to motel spaces, which will allow for a more immediate response to housing people away from their encampments.

Va Lecia Adams Kellum, CEO of the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, described its approach to engaging with Angelenos experiencing homelessness as "offering them something valuable and that's life-changing.

'`I believe that we've already moved 30 or something people permanently and that means people who were literally living in a tent when the mayor came into office, are now in permanent housing. I met with some of those folks yesterday and they're thriving and so grateful ... to the team for what we've done to change their lives," Kellum added.

Mercedes Marquez, chief of housing and homelessness solutions, said Inside Safe is about creating a bridge between encampments and a permanent home.

"So, that means we had to learn, we are scaling, and everyday we get stronger," Marquez said. "We learn from whatever mistake or miscue or painful experience that happen."

Officials have initiated 13 operations across the city such as Sixth & Fairfax, Culver Median, Venice, and 99th & Flower. Those operations resulted in 62 homeless individuals placed in permanent supportive housing, 515 people brought inside to temporary housing, zero arrests and more than 150,000 pounds of waste removed from the encampments, according to Marquez.

Marquez said the city began outreach at Skid Row last week, and in the following week officials anticipate moving about 150 homeless individuals into temporary housing at The Grand as part of Inside Safe. According to Marquez, the goal is to move 2,000 homeless individuals from Skid Row into temporary housing within three years.

Bass said she believes the city will be able to house more residents partly due to the nature of the outreach that happens beforehand.

"Many of the outreach workers are well known by the time to move out on the bus," Bass said. "There's actually a relationship there. People are known by name and there is the belief that people didn't trust where they're moving. But that trust is built."

The mayor reviewed some of the challenges her administration faces in scaling Inside Safe. She indicated motel cost and availability, lack of capacity, a rigid bureaucratic system and RV storage and dismantling.

RVs are an ongoing issue, with city officials trying to find solutions such as finding space to store RVs or convincing people living in them to enter temporary housing.

"We are in the process of changing this bureaucracy, the Coordinated Entry System, and then also the requirements to qualify for permanent supportive housing," Bass said. "Nothing drives us crazy more than to know there are vacancies and we have people ready."

Marquez added: "We are now talking about disaster recovery, which is about the intermediate and the long term solutions to disaster, where you start scaling and where costs start counting down."

Bass noted that of the $50 million she requested from her declaration of emergency on homelessness, $4.4 million has been spent so far with $27 million to be spent on motels and resources for community-based organizations to provide case management and other services.

Bass said $19 million is left from the $50 million. In addition, the city received $60 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city received $196 million from the state.

The city anticipates still more money and resources to address homelessness in the future, she added.

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