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City, county officials seek more funds for homeless

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles city and county officials will need the state and federal government’s help in funding a joint homelessness battle plan they hope to release in February, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s homelessness policy adviser said during a state Senate committee hearing at City Hall Oct. 22.

Pointing to drastic cuts in housing subsidies and homelessness services funds, Garcetti’s homelessness policy director Greg Spiegel urged state and federal officials gathered at the hearing to extend financial help toward efforts to permanently house the homeless in Los Angeles.

He assured the committee that any funds coming to the city and county “will be used efficiently and rapidly.”

“We have a coalition, we have collaboration like never before, we’re removing inefficiencies, we’ve got projects ready to go on the street,” Spiegel said. “If you provide us with the money, we can house the people.”

Spiegel, made the request as part of welcoming remarks to the state Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee during an informational hearing on homelessness being hosted at City Hall.

State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, responded that state lawmakers are “going to do our best to work with the city of Los Angeles, on devising legislation and budget solutions over the next year, and I appreciate the offer to help us do that.”

Spiegel told the committee that city and county are working to “fit together” housing, law enforcement and sanitation policy, and will release their plan in February.

The mayor hopes local funds can be directed toward rapid re-housing vouchers, which will help “get people on their feet and off the street” for the short-term, usually for six to nine months at a time, according to Spiegel.

“We think that is a really appropriate role for local subsidies, and that’s something we’re going to pursue in a much larger way” as part of the joint plan with the county, Spiegel said.

The council recently committed to spending $100 million on programs aimed at ending homelessness, while Garcetti has proposed that the city spend this amount annually “to really make a dent,” Spiegel said.

City and county officials have indicated that the anticipated plan will include existing programs that are being conducted on a smaller level, but have yet to be scaled up to cover the entire county. Those programs include a coordinated database for providing services, and permanent supportive housing, which are long-term housing with counseling, medical clinics and other services built-in.

Spiegel said a major component of the joint homelessness battle plan are efforts to prevent homelessness, especially through creating more affordable housing.

He said the 26,000 existing homeless people in the city of Los Angeles are the “tip of the iceberg,” with many who are on the cusp of becoming homeless.

As an example, Spiegel said that even though the city has helped to house more than 4,600 homeless veterans in the past 18 months, more than many other cities, about four to five more veterans in Los Angeles become homeless each day.

Spiegel said homelessness in Los Angeles is a “homegrown problem,” with about 77 percent of the homeless population having been in Los Angeles County more than 10 years.