LA County to create new agency to focus on homelessness
Board of Supervisors’ split vote that calls LAHSA’s future into question
Los Angeles County will create a new agency intended to handle the homelessness crisis.
The Board of Supervisors voted to create a new entity to oversee various agencies and coordinate the county’s response,, the Los Angeles Times reported. The new office or department would report directly to the board.
After a 3-2 vote, the supervisors called for the county chief executive to return with recommendations on the powers and structure of the new office.
The new office was among seven recommendations by a special committee set up to boost the county’s response to homelessness – including the efficiency of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a joint powers agency criticized for its response to the crisis.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-wrote and introduced the motion, said the recommendations would improve coordination of services for homeless people and increase accountability of county agencies.
“The end goal is to reform the systematic dysfunction that has resulted in the dismal outcomes we’re seeing play out on our streets, in our storefronts and in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We now have a path forward.”
Changes include giving county agencies and cities access to the Homeless Management Information System, a database that tracks services provided to homeless residents.
The board also approved a recommendation that an undetermined share of revenue from Measure H, the 2017 sales tax to boost homeless services, be sent to a “local solutions fund” to help cities implement their own homeless housing and service plans.
Supervisors said they want LAHSA, formed in 1993, to refocus its efforts on ensuring that federal funding lines up with state and local priorities. Many now want to disband the agency, whose executive director quit last month.
Voting against the motion was Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who expressed concerns about whether the recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness would fix the problem.
The recommendations would “cause a thickening of the county bureaucracy and a process of administrative seat-swapping that will divert time, resources and attention,” Kuehl said. “It’s like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic and thinking it will keep it afloat.”
Mitchell said she still couldn’t see how the new entity could coordinate so many different departments on a complex issue. She also worried about the costs in implementing the recommendations. She said the county had already spent $1 million just to conduct the study.
“This motion is creating another system without us knowing how much money we are using, where it’s going and the impact it will have,” she said.
[Los Angeles Times] – Dana Bartholomew