Los Angeles County must “reject the status quo” and develop a more cohesive way of addressing homelessness, with the current system too fractured and ill-equipped to handle the breadth of the problem, a county commission concluded Wednesday.
“The region is in crisis, but the system serving persons experiencing homelessness is not set up to operate in crisis mode,” according to the report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, which was established by the county last year to perform a comprehensive review of the homelessness issue and the system of responding to it.
The report lists a series of concerns, most notably the lack of an authoritative regional agency charged with responding to the issue.
“The voices of the system lamented that key government entities and service providers too often operate in silos rather than as an integrated network,” according to the report. “There is role confusion among these entities, and as a result, they are hampered in supporting people experiencing homelessness.”
While the report’s authors credited the quasi-city-county Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority for some successes — particularly during the COVID- 19 pandemic — they lamented that it operates with limited abilities that hamper what it can accomplish.
“Its decision-making authority is limited by design, with little or no authority over funding, prevention, housing acquisition, substance abuse and mental health treatment, among other issues,” according to the report. “We refer to this as the LAHSA `conundrum.’ The conundrum has led many to falsely rely on LAHSA, creating a great deal of consternation for stakeholders.”
The report also cites a lack of “vital infrastructure.”
“While many county and city departments touch homelessness, none are dedicated exclusively to serving people experiencing homelessness nor able to cut across silos to provide leadership across agencies,” according to the document. “… These factors, coupled with a web of sometimes inconsistent and poorly communicated policies and practices, leave LAHSA, service providers, community groups, other cities in the region and other stakeholders feeling devalued, unheard and frustrated.”
The report recommends that the county create a central entity “with responsible charge, accountability and authority over homelessness.”
It also recommends a reimagining of the leadership of the “continuum of care” overseeing the issue regionally and arming LAHSA with specific decision-making authority.
“Now is the time to reject the status quo and bring new life, new ideas, and new partners into the arena to support those that work to improve our system every day,” according to the report.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion creating the blue-ribbon commission, hailed the panel’s work, noting Wednesday that “what we’re doing in L.A. County is failing.”
“Our rising homeless count numbers prove that,” Barger said in a statement. “The tents that line our streets prove that. Thousands of individuals in distress prove that. We have more than a hundred public, community-based, faith-based and non-profit organizations dedicated to providing services to people experiencing homelessness, and millions of Measure H dollars in our coffers to fund the work, but our region continues to fall short.”