LA City Council approves funding for several homeless housing solutions

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 16: People walk past a homeless tent encampment in Skid Row on September 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles City Council agreed to allocate tens of millions of dollars toward homeless housing projects and programs, but also voted to require more oversight of the way the money is spent.

The council voted unanimously to provide $97 million to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority for its rapid rehousing and shared housing
programs, but Council President Nury Martinez added an amending motion to make the funding contingent on a monthly progress report on the programs and
specifying that it be doled out in increments not to exceed $30 million.

Martinez said the city is "failing'' to address its current homeless situation.

"Just look outside the window and you will see more unhoused folks than ever before,'' Martinez said during the council meeting.

Speaking about whether holding up the rest of the funding would cause delays in service, she said, "The only delay that I see is not holding (accountable) the very agency that, quite frankly, has underperformed in the past.''

According to numbers reported by LAHSA in June, ahe annual homeless count conducted in January found that the county's homeless population increased by 12.7% over the previous year, while the city of Los Angeles' homeless population jumped by 14.2%.

In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 homeless people, but this year's number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in
2019, and 41,290 in January.

Heidi Marston, LAHSA's executive director, said the rapid rehousing program is intended to be a permanent solution for homeless people, and she said the agency is tracking where people are being sent for other housing solutions.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 18: An aerial view shows homeless tents lining sidewalks in Skid Row as coronavirus infections continue to spread throughout the region on April 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Martson said it would also be difficult to gauge if there would be any delays in service without the full $97 million. Councilman Mike Bonin then moved to have the $30 million cap on funding taken out of the requirements for LAHSA, but failed to receive enough support from the rest of the council.

Martinez said the additional oversight doesn't prevent LAHSA from operating its rapid rehousing and shared housing programs, which seek to place 3,000 people in permanent living situations, but the agency has to be held accountable with its spending.

Martinez' motion instructs LAHSA to work with each council office to identify service providers for safe parking sites, either through the agency's current service providers or new ones, based on the council office's determination.

It also instructs the city to execute a new contract with LAHSA regarding the Emergency Solutions Grant COVID-19 funding and the Los Angeles County service commitment that would include a list of oversight measures.

The City Council also approved funding in the amounts of:

-- $22 million for the construction of shelters with a total of 525 beds at 11471 Chandler Blvd., 6099 Laurel Canyon Blvd., 19020-1940 W. Vanowen St. and 1221 S. Figueroa Place, as well as $7.18 million for new interim beds;

-- $12 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds for the construction of new interim housing beds;

-- $3.95 million in Emergency Solutions Grants for leasing interim units for homeless people and another $2.44 million in for outreach services;

-- $1.28 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds for tenant improvements to establish 80 family shelter beds at 3061 Riverside Drive; and

-- $1.14 million from the Los Angeles County service commitment for the sites for overnight safe parking, from Oct. to June 30.