Is 'Housing First' a dangerous homeless policy? Reports of mold, noise complaint draws debate

In 2016, California adopted the Housing First policy for all its housing programs.

It was created to help people experiencing homelessness by getting them into housing and later providing the services they need. 

It sounds like a great idea, but the people who live in complexes where Housing First is applied say that the policy is ruining their quality of life. 

Tenants at the Gower Street Apartments contacted FOX 11 to express their concerns. 

"Housing First is a joke. They’re taking chronically homeless people. Many of them have absolutely no clue how to live inside. They’re not being mandated services, and they’re moving into permanent supportive housing," said Pamela Crenshaw, a tenant. 

"With the Housing First Act, they want to house people but they don’t drug test them. They don’t have a psych evaluation, and they just move them in for profit," said another tenant, who asked us to protect his identity. 

Gower Street Apartments is owned by the nonprofit, A Community of Friends, or ACOF. Its mission is to end homelessness by offering permanent housing to people with mental illness. 

"It’s challenging for people who are stable to live with people who are just getting used to living indoors again," said Dora Leong Gallo, the President and CEO of ACOF. 

She says A Community of Friends owns 45 properties, just like the Gower Apartments, and is building another six.

"The first effort on our part is to get them into their home so they are no longer in the streets, and then we can provide the attention and support they need to live independently," Leong Gallo said.

However, the tenants who spoke with FOX 11 say people are brought into the complex and are left to fend for themselves. 

"If you’re going to have these people coming in, why aren’t you making sure they’re on their medication, checking their criminal records, checking other sorts of behaviors going on? They’re up all night, up and down the hallway screaming," said Jennifer Obakhume, a tenant.

Some of the other problems reported by the tenants include an elevator that is constantly breaking down. The complex has no handicap accessibility, and tenants complain of mold in their apartments from flooding after an upstairs tenant left the water running. 

Leong Gallo says there are case managers on the premises helping the tenants, and she says ACOF has no plans to make changes. 

"Los Angeles has over 70,000 homeless people. It’s just an incredible number, and the only way to address this is to build homes and provide those services," Leong Gallo said.