Service center opens to combat South L.A. homelessness

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti and other community dignitaries celebrated the March 13 grand opening of the Broadway Manchester Service Center, an office space for caseworkers serving the homeless and low-income populations in South Los Angeles.

The service center is a collaboration between the nonprofits St. Joseph Center and First to Serve, which provide services to homeless and low-income families, people with substance abuse problems and others.

LaCheryl Porter, vice president of contract management and new ventures for the St. Joseph Center, said that the service center will be used as “a centralized location for case managers that do a lot of work with clients to find housing in the South L.A. area.”

Caseworkers that work with South L.A. residents will now have a place in the area to work out of instead of having to commute from the Westside, Porter added.

The center will provide housing case management, mental health services, crisis housing, homeless outreach permanent supportive housing, housing stability, and many other services to the homeless community in South L.A.

“When someone moves into housing, they’ll need assistance on how to pay rent, how to do things to make sure that they maintain their housing,” Porter said.

Clients will be chosen through referrals from particular contracts, such as the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

According to Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, South L.A. has one of the highest concentrations of people experiencing homelessness, with about 5,700 people living on the streets.

“We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work like we’ve never gotten to work before,” county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s that time for us to do what we haven’t done in the county of Los Angeles, and that is to make a bold statement and a big push to end homelessness in the county.”

The county’s goal is to bring 45,000 people out of homelessness and prevent 30,000 from falling into it over the next five years, Ridley-Thomas said.

Garcetti said that the voter approval of Measure HHH in November and Measure H in March shows the city is ready to do more than just confront and address homelessness, but to end it all together.

Pastor John Cager, board chair of First to Serve, speaks at the grand opening of the Broadway Manchester Service Center March 12. First to Serve is one of two nonprofits that are collaborating to operate the service center, which is designed to help get homeless people off the street. (Photo by Dorany Pineda)
Pastor John Cager, board chair of First to Serve, speaks at the grand opening of the Broadway Manchester Service Center March 12. First to Serve is one of two nonprofits that are collaborating to operate the service center, which is designed to help get homeless people off the street. (Photo by Dorany Pineda)

In November, voters approved Measure HHH, a city ballot measure that increased property taxes to pay for $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless. Measure H, which passed with the necessary two-thirds majority on March 7, was a county ballot measure that increased the sales tax by a quarter-cent to help fund homeless programs and services.

The measures are part of a two-step fundraising designed by the city and county to provide support services and shelter to those living on the streets.

“The 110 is a freeway, not a shelter,” Garcetti said. “Our rivers are to get our waters out to the ocean, not to provide so-called homes. The unhoused among us are us: they are our brothers and our sisters; they are the veterans who fought for this country; they are the youth we shower with resources until they turn 18 or 21 and feel lost in this world. They are those people who will be the measure of our success or our failure.”

It is a center that will enable workers to try and solve homelessness, a problem that Garcetti called “the most pressing moral challenge of our time.”

Among the other speakers at the grand opening were Pastor John Cager, Rev. Richard Reed, Dr. VaLecia Adams Kellum and others.

Following the speeches, guests were provided lunch and given a tour of what used to be a post office and is now the newly renovated facility at 8525 S. Broadway.


Supervisors make final adjustments to 2016-17 budget

LOS ANGELES — The county Board of Supervisors approved final adjustments to Los Angeles County’s $29.9 billion budget for 2016-17 Sept. 27.

By way of comparison, that total exceeds the budgets of more than half the states nationwide and is more than the gross domestic product of several small countries. However, it is also about $100 million less than the latest valuation of Airbnb.

Advocates for the homeless largely praised the county’s commitment to spend $20 million on affordable housing in this fiscal year, part of a multi-year plan to ramp up spending to $100 million annually by 2020-21.

However, on the lawn outside the Hall of Administration, community activists at a “learn-in” proposed alternatives to the county’s spending plans.

A coalition of community members led by Californians United for a Responsible Budget called on the board to divest money from the Sheriff’s Department — including roughly $148 million earmarked to be spent on planning for new jails — and invest in diversion programs, youth opportunities and fighting immigration court battles on behalf of low-income residents.

“Grassroots organization have been fighting for adequate and equitable resources for all our community members and have only received piecemeal policies,” said Diwaine Smith, youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition. “We are still waiting for the board to divest from law enforcement by stopping the proposed women’s jail.”

Last year, the board agreed to move forward with construction of a women’s lockup in Lancaster at the Mira Loma Detention Center, once used by federal immigration authorities.

The approval came despite protests from Californians United for a Responsible Budget and other advocates of criminal justice reform who called for pre-trial release, diversion programs for substance abusers and offenders with mental illness, as well as split sentences that would allow women to spend less time away from their families.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey and the board have been working to expand diversion programs, but the supervisors say that no matter how successful such programs are, there will still be a need to jail some offenders.

Some of the final budget adjustments approved would seem to meet the coalition’s goals, including $43.7 million to expand community mental health services and a transfer of 100 clinical positions out of the Sheriff’s Department and into the Department of Health Services to manage jail inmates’ health.

The final budget also included $54.6 million in funding and 400 new positions for the Department of Children and Family Services — part of an effort to reduce social worker caseloads.