People experiencing homelessness can now apply for permanent supportive housing on an online application that is expected to shorten the process by at least a month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced Friday.

“The Universal Housing Application, or the UHA, really modernizes the process that we have for applying to project-based supportive housing and it frankly moves us into the 21st century by taking the application process online,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said during the announcement Friday alongside representatives of the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Development Authority and People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).

The Universal Housing Application consolidates more than 15 separate applications into one and integrates multiple data systems, including the Homeless Management Information System and the Resource Management system.

“Clients who wanted to get into a permanent supportive housing unit had to fill out multiple manual applications — at the building level, for tax credits, for the housing authority application, for permanent long-term supportive housing, rental assistance — and this streamlines it all into one application,” said Carlos VanNatter, director of Section 8 at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

Officials also said that about half of the mail-in applications were sent incomplete or with an issue, prompting a lengthy back-and-forth process that could take more than a month.

“This also resulted in units lying there vacant, waiting for somebody to be referred over to them,” said Emilio Salas, executive director of the Los Angeles County Development Authority. According to LAHSA’s Amy Perkins, the number of housing units sitting empty at any given time is in the hundreds.

The new system automatically checks the applications to make sure nothing is missing before it is submitted.

“This system is designed to eliminate that altogether to make sure that things are done completely right the very first time and streamlining that effort so that people do not have to navigate a maze of systems that go to a singular system and a singular process,” Salas said.

“These are the kinds of changes that really facilitate the process for someone to go from the street right into housing, so we’re excited about this opportunity.”

With the switch, the amount of time it takes for someone to get placed into permanent housing is expected to shrink from 150 days to 120, officials said.

Officials also noted that the virtual process is a lot easier than the mail-in applications for people who worry about their documents getting lost in the mail.

“It’s exciting to be able to tell them about the (Universal Housing Application) coming and being able to house them sooner because there are those clients who had to wait a very long time, who had to send their IDs in the mail and just pray that it would com back to them, it was a big step for them,” said PATH Program Manager Milton Toscano.

People can view a tutorial on how to apply for housing through the Universal Housing Application at bit.ly/3tu5gxx

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