Has Homelessness Broken LA?

Councilwoman Calls for Establishing Homeless Bureaucracy
The homelessness crisis has grown to record heights during the last two mayoral administrations and now threatens to overrun the city of Angels with the unchecked failure of finding permanent housing for the homeless and increasing fears among residents of growing crime.

The stakes are equally high in Los Angeles, where the success of the Games will depend heavily on how much the city can tackle some of its most vexing challenges, starting with its stubborn homelessness crisis.

City News Service

Los Angeles Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez Monday urged the formation of a new department to create and oversee programs that address the homelessness crisis.
In a statement, Rodriguez said the goal of establishing the Department of Homelessness is to dismantle organizational silos, improving coordination and enhancing transparency regarding the city’s homelessness programs. The department would report to Mayor Karen Bass and the City Council, she noted.
“A Department of Homelessness can help verify what each level of government is doing to solve the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time; I cannot say with certainty that we have an efficient and effective operation free of redundancies,” Rodriguez said.
She added, “With a mutual goal of creating a responsive system, we must also be prudent and judicious with resources to assure we can accelerate our impact and aid more individuals, because urgency can and should also be efficient and the Department of Homelessness may be a key part to delivering these goals.”
At the same time on Monday, a hearing in Los Angeles federal court focused on the possibility of an independent audit of homelessness programs in Los Angeles, including Mayor Karen Bass’ signature Inside Safe initiative.
U.S. District Judge David Carter said at previous hearings that he supported a proposed court-monitored, third-party audit of homeless-related expenditures by the city.
The judge’s remarks came during arguments in a motion filed by lawyers for the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, which accuses the city of failing to live up to the terms of an April 2022 settlement agreement to clear homeless encampments and create shelter beds for those living on the streets.
The Alliance is demanding that the city pay a nearly $6.4 million fine for what it alleges is a lack of transparency and failure to reduce homeless encampments within deadlines set in the settlement.
At a March 8 hearing, Carter said Bass offered to have Los Angeles pay for an independent audit of the city’s homelessness programs. Carter has not agreed to the final parameters of the proposed audit, and Bass and City Council President Paul Krekorian are expected to attend Monday’s hearing in downtown Los Angeles.
All that led to Councilwoman Rodriguez introducing a motion on Friday to establish the Department of Homelessness, which is the first step in the process. The motion will be heard by the Housing and Homelessness Committee at a future date.
In her motion, the councilwoman calls for the city to consolidate and focus its efforts on homelessness. Rodriguez said current policies and programs are currently dispersed among too many entities, making it “impossible” for the city to apply lessons learned from successful approaches.
She said systemic factors pose challenges to institutionalizing existing successful models or new ones governing the city’s $1.3 billion investment into its homeless response.
The City Administrative Officer, the Housing Department and the mayor’s office each dedicate significant staff time and resources to managing “overlapping homelessness interventions,” she said.
“Within this system, determined efforts to evaluate city-funded homelessness programs often run aground, as the providers of services produce irregular and imprecise reporting on contractually obligated metrics and outcomes,” the motion reads.
The councilwoman said, in effect, this system places barriers between city oversight and city-funded services.
L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia has also expressed concerns about the city’s homelessness programs, and posted on social media about what he called the city’s “lack of transparency and accountability on homelessness efforts despite billions of dollars spent.”
Mejia said he is launching a “focused audit” of Inside Safe, but City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo disputed that Mejia has the authority to audit the mayor’s homelessness program.
In a letter to the court last week, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez called for an independent audit of both city and county homelessness expenditures.
“Until we can verify what each level of government is doing to solve the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, I cannot say with certainty that we have an efficient and effective operation free of redundancies,” she wrote.
In March 2020, the L.A. Alliance, a coalition of downtown business owners and residents, sued the city and county of Los Angeles to compel elected officials to rapidly address the homelessness crisis, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs demanded the immediate creation of shelter and housing to get people off the streets, services and treatment to keep the unhoused in shelter, and regulation of public spaces to make streets, sidewalks and parks safe and clean.
In the eventual settlement, it was agreed that the city would reduce encampments, add more shelter beds, establish deadlines and goals to document its progress, and return public spaces to their intended uses.

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