The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Thursday released a list of recommendations to strengthen the region’s response to the homelessness and housing crisis.
“Governance reforms could clear hurdles to house thousands of people faster,” said Sarah Dusseault, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Governance, which issued the report.
“We need to transform our system to look more like our early COVID response, when we sheltered thousands of Angelenos in a number of weeks,” she said. “It’s time to update the Joint Powers Agreement to reflect the current reality. Clear lines of responsibility, more involvement of people with lived experience and partnership across jurisdictions work fast and work well.”
The report recommends that LAHSA:
— strengthen its operational effectiveness, including improving contracting and procurement processes;
— streamline its governing bodies to clarify roles and accountability, enhance transparency to elected officials and incorporate more involvement of people who have experienced homelessness; and
— engage elected officials in an effort to create a shared mandate for system change.
“Homelessness reflects a systemic failure to help people when they need it most. We can and must do better,” said the report’s author, Ann Oliva, visiting senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “We must work in alignment across jurisdictions, which is challenging in a large, decentralized area like Los Angeles. This report recommends putting city and county elected officials at the same table to foster better coordination, and hopefully improve services for people experiencing homelessness across the region.”
According to LAHSA officials, the report was issued because the Authority has evolved into a rehousing system administrator but lacks control over its funding, policies and programs. Instead, it receives direction from several oversight bodies, and its current governance structures relies on the city and county of Los Angeles, with input from the LAHSA commission, L.A. Continuum of Care Council, Lived Experience Advisory Board and other groups.
The report was also warranted because while funding has increased, it is tied to requirements and mandates that create complex challenges for LAHSA and its nonprofit partners, according to LAHSA officials, who said its ability to execute contracts, payments and procurements has been slowed down by each funding source’s set of rules.
“Ending homelessness involves answering three hard questions,” said Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA. “Why are people losing housing? How do we support them in getting back into permanent housing? And how do we build enough housing to meet the need?
“LAHSA’s ongoing transformation lets us address the rehousing question faster and more effectively every day,” she said. “While we dig into that, we need a system-wide vision with flexibility and authority, shared by 88 cities and the county at-large, that can stop upstream systems from driving people into homelessness while it locates, builds and operates the affordable housing that people can call home.”
During the commission’s Feb. 12 meeting, members spoke about the challenges and potential solutions facing LAHSA.
For example, they said that L.A.’s current approach to rehousing people highlights the systemic obstacles that arise when the involved organizations do not have centralized accountability. A potential solution, according to LAHSA, is to use Project Roomkey, the initiative to house people in empty hotel and motel rooms, as a model of the path forward. The initiative exists through an agreement that created a temporary executive-level task force, with LAHSA in the lead.
“In spite of the region’s decentralized governance structures, this model drew clear lines of authority and recognized LAHSA’s expertise to improve operational effectiveness of the rehousing system,” LAHSA reported.
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