Los Angeles needs to face the facts. Our current homelessness system is broken and failing. An estimated 40,000 homeless people live on our streets, a 45% increase since 2016. This year, LA alone is spending almost $1 billion on incremental improvements, but not comprehensive change. Much of our spending goes to triaging the problem (clean ups, outreach etc.), not solving it.
This is a complicated and profound problem that Los Angeles is not entirely responsible for creating. This is also a mental health and drug addiction crisis. The County of Los Angeles must be held accountable, but our City and County leaders are not collaborating as effectively as they should. One of the fundamental problems is the current governance structure. There are too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’ but no one is truly accountable or responsible for the entire System. Experts agree that the lack of clarity of authority creates barriers to large scale solutions. Who do you turn to as the entity fully responsible and accountable?
There have been many recent studies and an audit on what’s not working (see City of LA Council File No. 20-0045), and the County has established a Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness to provide governance and other recommendations. As stated by the Greater Committee for LA – an organization working to find real solutions, ‘any credible solution needs to have clear data, goals and transparency. Most of all, a plan forward requires clarify of roles and thoughtful coordination between governments and service providers’.
With the substantial infusion of State/Federal dollars, we must invest those dollars more effectively or we’re just throwing money at the problem with no end in sight.
This is also an affordable housing crisis with housing prices through the roof along with soaring rents. And a majority of landlords with affordable housing units refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers (government rent assistance program for low-income households). Tragically, an estimated 2/3 of local Section 8 vouchers go unused as indicated recently by Housing General Manager Ann Sewill.
As Controller, I can’t solve this crisis alone, but I would roll up my sleeves with City/County leaders and stakeholders to find real world solutions. During my tenure, I would focus on efforts to further access to data and improve transparency & equity but also:
- Focus on technology investments that would facilitate a more coordinated approach to fixing the problem by significantly:
- improving access to data/information for the unhoused and all stakeholders
- standardizing metrics/ outcomes tracking to ensure there is a ROI
- facilitating a more coordinated & efficient approach to fixing the problem
- reducing waste
- improving transparency and equity of dollars spent
- Facilitate an audit of LA Public Housing, Section 8 vouchers & barriers to housing to:
- find ways to ensure Section 8 vouchers don’t go unused
- meet with landlords to identify barriers to Section 8 utilization
- advocate for increased dollars to the LA Justice Fund
- recommend IT investments to address serious data and transparency deficiencies for access to public housing and Section 8
- Audit Prop HHH annually as mandated focusing on:
- identifying red tape with building permits and cumbersome requirements
- supporting a streamlined housing project financing structure
- reviewing the cost of the HHH bond debt service to ensure the City is not overpaying
- Follow up w/ LAHSA on the status of 2019 Controller Audit recommendations to:
- ensure effective utilization of taxpayer dollars
- improve accountability by providing trackable and quantifiable outcomes and results through IT and other enhancements
- advocate for a one case manager approach for each unhoused resident instead of the current disorganized model
- Collaborate with City leaders and the private sector to identify alternatives to the HHH Housing Model that are more nimble/cheaper including:
- privately-funded projects
- shared housing
- other alternative delivery models
- Assist with the facilitation of Homelessness Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations to:
- establish clear lines of authority to remove barriers to large scale solutions – We need one point of accountability
- support streamlining LAHSA functions
- establish of a City/County vision, regional goals, and collaboration
- Push for more City jobs for Angelenos or more opportunities to outflow cash to Angelenos (via Angeleno Card)