New leader appointed for county homeless authority

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Center, will be the next CEO of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority after the commission that oversees the agency voted Jan. 23.

Adams Kellum was introduced at a news briefing at City Hall, flanked by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn and other officials.

Her appointment comes as Bass is attempting to address the city’s homelessness crisis immediately upon taking office. She declared a state of emergency over homelessness as her first official act and has stressed collaboration with the county and the authority, which operates under the auspices of both the city and county.

“Together, we will transform [the authority] into an instrument of systemic change and a model for addressing homelessness on our streets,” Adams Kellum said. “Each of us knows the time is now for action.”

Adams Kellum said it was “very difficult” for her to leave St. Joseph’s, the social services organization that she has led since 2008, overseeing nearly 400 staff and a $49 million budget to conduct a variety of programs for the unhoused and low-income families.

St. Joseph’s quadrupled its staff and increased its reach under Adams Kellum’s leadership, according to her official bio.

Adams Kellum also was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve on the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s No Place Like Home Program Advisory Committee.

“This is a time of great change,” Adams Kellum told the authority’s commission earlier in the day. “It’s a time for us to be in the center of the process of transformation and healing. You will see in me a go-getter. You will see someone that doesn’t take no for an answer.”

Adams Kellum will make $430,000 a year in the role and is scheduled to start on or before March 24. Bass said Kellum will initially work out of the mayor’s office to help implement Inside Safe initiative, Bass’ program intended to bring people living in encampments into permanent housing. Adams Kellum has already led the two initial deployments of the program in Hollywood and Venice.

“She has spent years innovating and developing superior and successful ways to transition people from the streets and into lasting stability and permanent housing,” Bass said.

Adams Kellum’s experience allows her to “jump in immediately with urgency and is a perfect fit to help lead Los Angeles forward on housing people and restoring our neighborhoods,” Bass added.

The 2022 homeless count revealed 41,980 unhoused people in the city of Los Angeles, up 1.7% from 2020. There are 69,144 unhoused people in the county, an increase of 4.1%.

Adams Kellum takes over for Stephen David Simon, who was appointed the authoirty’s interim executive director in September. Prior to Simon, Kristina Dixon and Molly Rysman had served as acting co-executive directors since last April, when Heidi Marston resigned as executive director over disagreements with the commission on compensation for staff.

Hahn said that Adams Kellum’s appointment is another example of the city and county “pushing the reset button” in addressing the homelessness crisis.

“You also have the hopes and expectations of L.A. County residents, as well as the 70,000 people that are sleeping on our streets,” Hahn said. “There is a lot of riding on your talent, your vision, your passion.”