Community Local News West Edition

Homeless advocates voice opinions on use of state funds

LOS ANGELES — A City Council committee got an earful Sept. 4 from advocates and members of the public about how the city should spend $123 million it expects to receive from the state next year for homeless housing and services.

Members of the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee said they want to use funding from the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program to bankroll projects and programs that could get people off the streets immediately.

“As someone who spent the morning at a groundbreaking of the first [Proposition HHH] development in my district that won’t be open until late February, I know that it takes a frustratingly long time to get anything done,” City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, adding the project was approved in early 2017.

Funding requests for the state program are due no later than Jan. 1, and the funds must be used for “evidence-based solutions.”

Various recommendations and requests were submitted to the committee by nonprofit organizations calling for more supportive housing and services.

The Los Angeles Coalition to End Youth Homelessness recommended using $20 million for youth homelessness prevention and services.

“When we approved the homeless strategy, we recognized there were multiple forms of homelessness and a range of solutions. The number of interventions and strategies that were funded [have been] very few and very narrow,” Councilman Mike Bonin said, adding that the state funds should allow the city to fund new solutions.

Bonin said he wanted to see more funding going toward shared housing programs, safe parking areas and other programs that provide the homeless with immediate assistance and shelter. Additionally, committee members said they want to direct more funding to mobile hygiene stations like the one operating in Skid Row.

Committee members said they would look at funding opportunities to help victims of domestic violence, provide services for homeless youth and to slow the rate of black people becoming homeless. Recent county statistics showed black people represent a disproportionate percentage of the area’s homeless population. 

The committee also instructed city officials to examine what funding could be given to the motel voucher program that temporarily houses people.

But the funding request wasn’t the issue of the day for many public speakers, who wanted to take the opportunity to criticize a recent proposal to change the laws regarding where the city’s homeless can sleep.

The proposal was introduced earlier this month by City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and would prohibit homeless people from blocking sidewalks and emergency entrances and would keep them at least 500 feet from schools and other sensitive areas.

It would also set enforcement provisions for people who harass or threaten pedestrians, but the language in the law is broad and activists expressed concern about how it would be enforced by police.

Although the issue of sleeping and behavior restrictions was not on the meeting agenda, speakers said it would be even more difficult to make funding requests if the question of where homeless people can go is still being decided.

“The activist community in Los Angeles is very values-driven, and the crowd rightly pointed out that you cannot look at those things in isolation,” Harris-Dawson said.

About 100 people commented during the meeting.

The application for state funding must be approved by the full City Council before it’s sent to Sacramento.

“I know that it takes a frustratingly long time to get anything done.”

— City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson

Wave Wire Services