Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis has issued the following statement following the release of the 2019 Homeless Count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA):
“With the voters’ approval of Measure H, LA County has been able to build more shelters, provide more services, and place more people into temporary and permanent housing than ever before. In the last year, we have permanently housed 21,631 individuals, 24,493 people entered interim housing, and 39,753 County residents accessed outreach, engagement, and prevention services. Yet, like our neighboring counties and other urban populations throughout the United States, we are seeing a rise in homelessness. This is not a crisis unique to LA County: Ventura, Kern, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties each reported increases of over 20%. Sadly, the epidemic of homelessness is a national problem.
It is clear that Los Angeles County residents are not immune to external economic forces that are driving economic disparity. While unemployment is low, wages have not kept up with rising rents, and many people are one financial crisis away from sleeping in their cars, in a homeless shelter, or on the street. Unfortunately, no matter how many people are coming forward and accepting services, shelter, and housing, more people are falling into homelessness.
Given that the root causes of our homelessness crisis are economic, it’s clear what needs to done: more affordable housing for low-income renters must be built. We have a shortage of about 517,000 affordable housing units. The median rent for apartments in Los Angeles is about $2,500 a month; for those who earn minimum wage at a full-time job, they are making about $2,300 a month.
This doesn’t add up – people cannot afford their rent, much less put food on the table, purchase lifesaving prescription drugs, or buy other basic necessities.
That is why I was proud to co-author LA County’s rent stabilization ordinance, which is in effect until the end of the year. The ordinance (1) prohibits rent increases in excess of 3% above the monthly rent; (2) prohibits more than one rent increase in any twelve-month period; and (3) regulates the reasons for which a landlord may terminate a tenancy in unincorporated LA County. The County is also in the process of developing a robust tenant protections program, which includes eviction defense for tenants, with the goal to establish a permanent policy to help families stay in their homes. And we will continue to invest Measure H dollars to provide subsidies for those families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness for the first time, but also to prevent – to the extent that we can – more people from falling into homelessness.
In the First District, I have worked with our departments, cities, Metro, and other partners to complete 1,063 units of affordable housing with 1,205 more in construction or in pre-development. That’s a total of 2,268 units in the First District in the nearly four and a half years I have served as County Supervisor.
For those who are currently experiencing homelessness, we must continue to empower our service providers, cities, developers, landlords, and community-based organizations to effectively access and utilize the resources the County has to offer and to work together to help our homeless population.
Each city has a unique perspective on solutions to homelessness and that is why I have fought to secure funding to bring in all of our 88 cities – big and small – as partners in this effort. The County allocated $2.6 million dollars for the COGs (Councils of Government) to help in the city homeless planning effort cities. The Board also approved $9 million from Measure H for the implementation of the Cities’ Homelessness Plans. Moreover, LAHSA set aside $3 million from the State Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding to support the cities’ plans.
I led the effort to secure $2.2 million in ongoing funding for our (HOST) Homeless Outreach Services Teams led by the Sheriff’s Department and other participating law enforcement agencies, which includes $1 million for city law enforcement agencies. In Pico Union, the National Health Foundation received $830,000 in Measure H funds for a remodel of a former sanitarium. With strong community support, the National Health Foundation is able to operate 62 recuperative care beds for individuals exiting our institutions who need extra care.
In Pomona, I made sure that the brand new year-round 16,000 square foot shelter was built in part with Measure H funding ($3.4 million) – operated by Volunteers of America, called Hope for Home. Opened this past December, Hope for Home provides meals, showers, a bed, and services for more than 200 people every day.
This year, the high need for Winter Shelter in SPA 3 (San Gabriel Valley) led us to convert the augmented shelter at Bassett Park to 24-hour Winter Shelter, serving up to 100 people on a daily basis.
In the City of South El Monte, at Whittier Narrows, Lava Mae has been operating its mobile showers every Thursday, with more than 100 people showing up every week for wraparound services, meals, clothing, record expungement services, and more. A similar program now operates in the City of Irwindale.
Later today, the Board will be voting on my appointment of former Auditor-Controller John Naimo to the Measure H Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board. His appointment will help magnify our impact in combating homelessness. The trust of the voters in this fight against homelessness must be retained, and there is no better expert than John Naimo in protecting the interests of the taxpayers.
However, despite our accomplishments, more and more families are impacted by today’s economic policies and political climate. Race and ethnicity also continue to shape and define many of our economic and social institutions, driving race-based inequities and disparities. As the 2019 Homeless Count shows, Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic group experiencing homelessness and make up over one-third of LA County’s homeless population. Yet, we know Latinos are undercounted as they are more likely to rely on their extended family and social networks and live in crowded households.
A new report by the nonprofit Urban Institute shows that one in seven adults in immigrant families do not participate or enroll in public assistance programs out of fear that this could impact their future green card status. Among low-income immigrant families, this ‘chilling effect’ is more dramatic, and 20% avoid public benefit programs. These are the families that need our support before they run out of options.
As we face these ongoing challenges, my resolve to end homelessness has never been stronger. Thank you to the 8,500 volunteers who, over three cold nights in January, were able to make 2019 the most comprehensive Homeless Count in history. The Homeless Count, combined with data gathered by the County’s Department of Public Social Services, will improve our ability to target services to help those people who need it.
I would like to thank Phil Ansell and the entire CEO Homeless Initiative team for all their hard work in guiding and informing the County’s responsible investment of Measure H. I would also like to thank Peter Lynn and LAHSA for their continued efforts to build out our infrastructure – folding in our cities and our smaller service providers who are eager to be part of the solution.
As always, we will collaborate with our Governor and the State Legislature to implement statewide solutions that will build more housing, and I pledge to continue to work with our cities to encourage more affordable housing. I also know that this Board of Supervisors will keep pushing to strengthen protections for renters and do our part to build affordable housing.
We will work together with our partners everywhere to lift our friends, families, and neighbors out of poverty and into a place they can call home.”