Collaborating to Combat Homelessness in Los Angeles County

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For the first time in four years, the Los Angeles County Homeless Count saw a 3% decrease in the homeless population. While progress has been made, there are still over 53,000 people living on the streets or in temporary shelters that need to find permanent and supportive housing.

To help with this effort, Measure H, a voter-approved countywide sales tax, is expected to generate $355 million annually for 10 years. The tax dollars have already started to fund innovative programs that will help individuals and families escape homelessness and enable others to stay housed.

The Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA) is working hand-in-hand with the County of Los Angeles and community partners to combat homelessness.

In January 2018, the CDC/HACoLA, along with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, launched the County’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Pilot Program. ADUs are secondary homes located on the same lot as a single-family home. The program incentivizes homeowners to construct new ADUs or preserve existing, unpermitted ADUs in exchange for accepting low-income or homeless families.

In collaboration with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, civic art played a role in the pilot program, opening up the conversation to a community of architects, designers, planners, and creative strategists. Through a design competition, contestants re-imagined the potential of ADUs and submitted concept designs.

The first place team — Lilliana Castro, Allen Guillen, and Cheuk Nam Yu — eliminated fences and borders of traditional neighborhoods in favor of open communities that would allow for the seamless integration of ADUs. In their submission, the ADU structures themselves would be built out of modular elements that could include green walls, solar roofs, and art walls.

As homeowners help in their own backyards, landlords are also in a unique situation to lend a helping hand. The County’s Homeless Incentive Program (HIP) provides monetary incentives to landlords to rent their available units to homeless individuals, families, and veterans. Since the launch of HIP in spring 2016, more than 800 formerly homeless households now have a safe place to call home.

One of the families HIP helped was a single mother who was a victim of domestic violence. She and her four children left her hostile living situation and had nowhere to go. After staying with friends, the family ended up living in the car or different shelters for months.

After connecting with the St. Joseph Center and HIP, the family found a property owner willing to rent to them. “Getting connected with HIP was the best thing that could have happened to me and my family,” the formerly homeless single mother shared.

Due to the success of the County’s HIP, seven cities have also adopted the model and committed 2,000 housing vouchers annually, including the City of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pomona, Burbank, Pasadena, Redondo Beach, and Glendale. Two additional cities will also be adopting the HIP model after July 1, 2018.

While Measure H is helping to fund new, innovative programs, there are also examples of how existing programs are adapting to help homeless families. For example, the CDC/HACoLA’s Public Housing Program is giving priority to homeless families, veterans, and victims of domestic abuse, as units at the South Scattered Sites (SSS) Family Public Housing Developments become available. As of June 12, 2018, 32 homeless families, totaling 139 household members, have been housed into subsidized units.

Additionally, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) found over 880 homeless families have children in the foster care system – and the only barrier to reunification is the lack of housing.

In lieu of placing children in foster care, the Family Unification Housing Subsidy program provides housing assistance – which allows the family to live together in a stable environment. As of June 15, 2018, 70 families – totaling 157 children – were successfully housed. This also provided $2.5 million in savings for DCFS.

Affordable housing development in Los Angeles County has also made great strides in creating units for formerly homeless individuals, families, and veterans. Over the past five years, the County invested $182 million, which enabled developers to leverage $1.7 billion toward the production of 3,362 units. This means for every dollar the County invested, it yielded $6.50 of outside investment. Of those units, 230 were reserved for persons with mental illness; 434 for the homeless; and 123 for homeless veterans.

This is just the beginning. In fall 2018, the CDC/HACoLA will release its Notice of Funding Availability 24A, which will provide $100 million in funding towards new affordable housing development.

The good news – there has been significant progress in Los Angeles County’s fight to end homelessness. The CDC/HACoLA and its partners – the County, cities, homeowners, landlords, and community organizations – are investing time and resources so the 53,000 people experiencing homelessness can find a safe and affordable place to live.

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