Homeless program targets those vulnerable to COVID-19

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is embarking on an “ambitious plan” to house 15,000 homeless Angelenos who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, while in part satisfying a federal court order.

We still have thousands of unsheltered people in Los Angeles County who are at risk of hospitalization or death if they contract COVID-19,” said Heidi Marston, executive director of the homeless services authority. “We need to get them out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.

“COVID-19 has brought significant one-time resources from the state and the federal government. These resources should be used to drive solutions that end people’s homelessness. The safest place for people is to be is home,” Marston said.

On June 18, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter accepted a plan submitted by the county and city of Los Angeles to collaborate and create 6,700 beds to house homeless people who are living near freeways, for people who are 65 or older and for people vulnerable to severe complications due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the homeless authority was developing its COVID-19 Recovery Plan, which seeks to rapidly move the 15,000 most vulnerable homeless people into housing, including more than 4,000 people in the county’s Project Roomkey, a program that rents hotel and motel rooms to temporarily shelter people during the pandemic.

The county Board of Supervisors could vote as early as July 21 to spend $308.6 million for the recovery plan, with the money coming from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act’s Emergency Solutions Grant, Coronavirus Relief Fund and Medicaid reimbursement.

Authority officials told City News Service the agency has committed $200 million to the recovery plan, and they look to the city of Los Angeles in hopes of securing additional funding.

The full cost of the recovery plan is estimated at about $800 million, officials said.

The recovery plan “adds thousands of new units to the homeless services system without waiting for the construction of new interim housing, making it the fastest long-term solution to satisfy Judge Carter’s order,” a statement issued by the homeless services authority said.

Under the recovery plan, the vast majority of the 15,000 people would move into newly leased “recovery housing,” which will consist of preexisting and new units that will be subsidized and provide supportive services.

Some people would immediately move into supportive housing units that are opening now or move into housing through problem-solving programs, the homeless authority said.

Throughout the one-year lease period, participants with the highest service needs will be transferred to permanent supportive housing on a rolling basis as units become available.

Other clients will be transferred to a long-term “shallow subsidy” program to keep them stably housed. Participants with slightly lower service needs will be offered a short-term recovery rehousing rental subsidy and supportive services.

We must pivot the emergency response of Project Roomkey, where we housed thousands faster than ever before, into a re-housing plan that rapidly and permanently houses thousands of our vulnerable neighbors,” said Sarah Dusseault, the chair of the homeless authority’s commission. “This bold goal is achievable if
we continue to clear bureaucratic hurdles and provide the necessary resources.”

According to the homeless count numbers released in June, Los Angeles County had 58,936 homeless people in January 2019, but this year’s number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in 2019, and 41,290 in January.

Wave Wire Services

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