The following is an excerpt from the November 2019 PPTFH Newsletter. To read the Newsletter in full, please click here.
Pictured: Guest Speaker Mike Bonin
LA’s Homelessness Action Plans
How do you solve homelessness? At the September 23 PPTFH community meeting, Mike Bonin, LA City Councilmember for District 11, answered simply, “Housing. It’s housing.” Also speaking that evening was another leader at the forefront of homelessness policy and action: Heidi Marston, Chief Program Officer at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). “It’s a slow process,” Marston explained. “It didn’t become like this overnight, and it’s not going to go away overnight. But we know what works.”
Bonin and Marston stressed that Los Angeles is doing more than ever to address homelessness. This is a direct result of Proposition HHH and Measure H, and the dedicated focus the City and State are bringing to the issue. Last year, over 21,000 people were housed in LA County, which is more than double the number in 2014, “more than we ever have before,” stated Marston. The number of people falling into homelessness, however, also increased, and at a greater rate.
Both speakers explained that there is no single answer, no silver bullet for solving homelessness. Prevention strategies play one critical role. It is easier and less expensive for LA to intervene before the individual falls into homelessness. Marston noted that “Last year we had about 6,000 people who were prevented from entering homelessness.” She explained that LAHSA uses a prevention method where they work with each individual to find relationships and resources they may not have considered. They also help people remain in their apartments with “eviction prevention.” LA provides individuals with short term subsidies to pay their rent and legal counsel to those facing eviction. Landlords receive their rent payments and avoid legal fees.
Bonin wants more people off the streets faster. In addition to permanent supportive housing (a time intensive approach) he wants additional strategies such as more bridge housing (temporary, 24-7 shelter), which is now being implemented throughout LA. “Our bridge housing program has been our fastest way to bring about interim housing,” stated Marston. Bonin is supportive of shared housing as well. For its targeted population, shared housing gets 23% of the people approached off the street the first day and 41% within 2 days.
On the Westside, Bonin highlighted recent progress including approved funding for 493 housing units in eight different projects; Safe Parking instituted in Westchester and West LA; and bridge housing that is being built on the VA property and in Venice. He also supports street strategies focused on public health. “If we’re not getting everybody off the street tonight, we need to be doing things differently.” He wants more showers, restrooms, and dumpsters so disease doesn’t spread; and more outreach teams making daily visits in order to provide services, build trust and persevere to get people off the street.
Bonin remarked that everyone can get involved in helping the homelessness issue in some way, depending on their resources and experience. Added Marston, “When LA speaks people listen, especially when we can speak with the same voice.”