LA County Supervisors adopt proposal to change homeless oversight

A divided Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted a series of recommendations Tuesday aimed at streamlining and improving the response to homelessness, with a majority calling the move a step in the right direction, but two others questioning whether the proposals will have any real impact.

Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl cast the dissenting votes in the 3-2 decision, with Kuehl suggesting she doesn't think any of the measures will help the homelessness problem. She compared them to "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

Mitchell said there was "no golden ticket" in any of the recommendations, saying, "I can't say that my vote on this action today will have a ... direct impact on those women, families, seniors, veterans, Black and Brown citizens who are unhoused."

But Supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis voted in favor of the seven recommendations offered by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, which was established by the county last year to perform a comprehensive review of the homelessness issue and the system of responding to it.

The report identified a series of concerns, many of which were expressed last year by Los Angeles city officials, most notably the lack of an authoritative regional agency charged with responding to the issue.

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The commission made seven recommendations, most notably the creation of a specific county entity with a designated leader to "unify" the work of various departments involved in the homelessness issue. The recommendations also included a call to streamline the work of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority — a quasi-city-county agency the commission said operates with limited abilities that hamper its ultimate effectiveness.

The commission also called for collection and sharing of specific data measuring the effectiveness of homelessness programs.

"The commission's job was also to identify how our county can enhance accountability," Barger said in a statement following the vote. "The end goal is to reform the systematic dysfunction that has resulted in the dismal outcomes we're seeing play out on our streets, in our storefronts, and in our neighborhoods. I believe they've done their job and accomplished their mission. We now have a path forward."

Hahn said the recommendations won't completely solve homelessness, "but there is no excuse for settling for the status quo."

"We need to keep adjusting our strategies until we find the most effective way to get people the help they need," she said. "I do not kid myself into believing we have done enough today to solve the homelessness crisis, but these reforms represent progress, and I am hopeful they will help."

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The commission's report cited a lack of "vital infrastructure" in the city and county to effectively address the homelessness issue.

"While many county and city departments touch homelessness, none are dedicated exclusively to serving people experiencing homelessness nor able to cut across silos to provide leadership across agencies," according to the panel's report, released in March.

"... These factors, coupled with a web of sometimes inconsistent and poorly communicated policies and practices, leave LAHSA, service providers, community groups, other cities in the region and other stakeholders feeling devalued, unheard and frustrated.

"... Now is the time to reject the status quo and bring new life, new ideas, and new partners into the arena to support those that work to improve our system every day," according to the report.

Los Angeles city officials last year expressed many similar concerns expressed in the report, leading the City Council to consider options such as withdrawing from LAHSA and advocating the creation of an agency to integrate all homeless services.