A new report estimates that it would cost more than $657 million in the first year alone to provide interim housing for every unsheltered homeless person in the city of Los Angeles, a number that dwarfs the current total of $20 million dedicated to a new program to provide a limited amount of shelters in each council district.
The report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority had been asked for in a motion authored by Councilmen Mike Bonin and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who said there is little evidence that anything is being done to create more or better shelters for the homeless in the city and that a true sense of emergency is needed to deal with the problem.
But faced with the staggeringly high estimate provided in the report, Bonin told the Homelessness and Poverty Committee it seemed clear that the status quo of thousands of people sleeping on the streets would continue.
“What this says is there are going to be tens of thousands of people sleeping on the streets and on our sidewalks for a long time to come. That’s what this says,” Bonin said. “Unless we come up with the resources and the will to spend an additional half billion dollars a year and hire 1,400 to 1,500 new people. That’s essentially what this says, and that’s sad and sobering, but it probably unfortunately is realistic.”
LAHSA, which coordinates homeless services for Los Angeles County, found in its 2018 count of the homeless that there are 23,114 unsheltered homeless people in the city, but the report estimated that 15 percent of those people would refuse any type of shelter. Aside from the initial first year cost of $657.3 million to provide each person with a bed in an interim shelter, there would be an additional yearly cost of $354 million.
The report comes as the city for the first time is undertaking a large effort to install temporary homeless shelters in each council district. A total of $20 million has been set aside in the coming fiscal year’s budget for the program, with an additional $10 million also set aside for other homeless programs that could include interim housing. Under the plan, the county would provide services at the shelters and the city would pay for their installation.
The goal of shelters, which are part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” program, are to provide temporary shelters in the form of tents, trailers and safe parking facilities. The Bridge Home program is limited in scope and does not aim to house every homeless person, but it has a goal of at least one temporary shelter housing 60 to 100 people in each of the 15 council districts.
The sites would be staffed with service workers who could help people transition into more permanent housing that is being built through Measure HHH, a 2016 ballot measure approved by city voters that aims to raise $1.2 billion for the construction of permanent supportive housing over 10 years.
With the HHH units taking years to plan and build — none have been opened yet — Bonin and some other members of the council over the last year started calling for more immediate solutions through temporary shelters, and Garcetti announced his shelter program during his annual State of the City speech in April.
The Bonin/Harris-Dawson motion that asked for the LAHSA report said the city’s 2016 Comprehensive Homelessness Strategy resolution — a $1.85 billion outline for homeless initiatives over a 10-year period — called for an expansion and “dramatic transformation” of the region’s emergency homeless shelters. But that “has not happened,” according to the councilmen.
“In fact, there is scant evidence of any progress, no apparent plan or strategy to make progress, and no evident sense of urgency or attention to any efforts to make progress,” according to their motion. “Even though officials have repeatedly declared a `state of shelter emergency,’ there is no institutional or organizational sense of emergency to move thousands of people off the streets immediately, or even in the next several weeks or months.”
Over the last few years, the number of unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness in the city of Los Angeles increased, rising from 17,687 in 2015 to 25,237 in 2017 before declining 8 percent in 2018 to 23,114.
Bonin said he hoped the report could be used to better measure how much impact the city was making when it dedicated money and resources to temporary shelters.
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