The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday approved the creation of a pilot program that will allow homeless people who receive parking citations to perform community service in lieu of paying a fine.
Under the program, people who meet the federal definition of being homeless under Title 42 of the Public Health and Welfare Code can go into one of the city’s service provider agencies and apply to perform social services or community services instead of paying the citation fine.
The program will cover a maximum of 10 parking citations and up to a combined value of $1,500 per year.
The 10-0 vote authorizes the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to establish a pilot Community Assistance Parking Program. San Francisco and San Diego have similar programs, and the pilot may be based on those.
More than 3,900 people in Los Angeles were living in their cars, according to the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.
LADOT does not currently have statistics on the number of parking citations that are issued to homeless individuals. But when the program is put in place, it will begin to gather data.
While Los Angeles is home to the nation’s largest homeless population, L.A. County has responded with a broad spectrum of programs to match.
The scope of the problem is large, but the agencies and organizations tasked with ending homelessness are making progress – progress that advocates say could be helped by greater public investment.
The March ballot initiative known as Measure H proposes a quarter-cent sales tax that would finance the medical, housing, and employment needs of a homeless population that includes large numbers of former foster youth, women, and people of color.
Voters have already shown a willingness to fund measures that help the people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. Measure H would complement a $1.2 billion bond measure that voters approved last year to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless.
If Measure H were to pass by the needed two-thirds vote, it would create an annual fund of $355 million to help a population that has swelled to nearly 47,000. The county would approve spending plans based on recommendations from those on the front lines of the fight against homelessness.
“We have a pervasive crisis of homelessness,” says Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell, who helped create homeless prevention programs in his former role as chief deputy director of the county’s social services department. “This would help us deal comprehensively with the issue and address the needs of different homeless categories. This is a complex problem that requires government, business and nonprofits.”
The Home for Good coalition led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has housed about 18,000 veterans and more than 16,000 of the chronically homeless since 2011. It is among the organizations that will advise the county if the tax is approved.
Chris Ko, Home for Good’s director, says that more resources for homelessness prevention are needed because of high housing costs in the county.
In Koreatown, for example, Ko says that more than 1,000 people are homeless, and many more are “on the brink of homelessness.” Homelessness extends into all ethnic communities in Los Angeles, and Ko says that housing insecurity rates of Asians and Pacific Islanders are twice as high as those for whites.
Gentrification is creating more housing insecurity in Latino communities, says Celina Alvarez, the executive director of Housing Works, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.
“People are living in parks and under freeways with no hope,” she says. “Every human being has a right to a home and the right to live in communities where they are valued … We have criminalized their behavior and stigmatized and ostracized them.”
While the most visible homeless community is central to the Skid Row area, homeless teens and young adults – a growing segment of L.A.’s homeless population – are more dispersed, and thus can be “invisible” to agencies, according to Andrea Marchetti, the executive director of Jovenes Inc. Marchetti’s organization provides housing and employment counseling for youth and at-risk families in Los Angeles. The homeless youth population in L.A., which is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 young people, includes many who were formerly in foster care, Marchetti says.
Women also represent an increasingly large segment of the homeless population, partly because of domestic violence, says Debra Suh, the executive director of the Center for the Pacific Asian Family, an organization that helps Asian and Pacific Islander (API) domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
One third of the homeless population is female, she says, and there has been a 55 percent increase in homeless women in the past three years. “We are not addressing domestic violence,” she says.
“Women have to choose between violence at home and unsafe streets. They are between a rock and a hard place.”
Many immigrant women seek her organization’s help because they have no network of friends and relatives, and because her teams can communicate in many different API languages.
More “cultural competency” in homeless services is needed if more people from a variety of communities are to be engaged, says Va Lecia Adams Kellum, the executive director of the St. Joseph Center, an organization that annually provides housing, mental health, educational, and vocational services to about 6,500 people in South Los Angeles and the city’s Westside.
The size of the homeless population that is African American is extremely disproportionate, she says. African American Angelenos are 39 percent of the homeless population in a city that is only 9 percent black.
“Who we hire makes a difference in this work,” she says. “African Americans and Latinos should be among those hired. It’s called ‘cultural competence’ and we should demand it.”
Moreover, ending homeless isn’t rocket science, according to Libby Boyce, the director of access, referral, and engagement for L.A. County’s Housing for Health program.
“The solution is housing with services,” she says. ”We know how to solve this problem. We just need the resources to reach all the homeless in our communities … The vast majority on our streets are long-term homeless and many have mental health problems and substance abuse problems.”
Reba Stevens is a Los Angeles resident who was homeless for 21 years until she obtained medical help for her substance use disorder. She jokes that when she first heard about Measure H, she changed her name to Reba “Measure H” Stevens.
“Supportive services are the reason I’ve been continuously housed the past 17 years,” she says. “Measure H will provide the resources to address individual needs.”
The reconstituted Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to put a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the fight against homelessness before voters in a special countywide election in March.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas teamed up with Supervisor Janice Hahn to recommend the tax, a measure Ridley-Thomas had pushed for in July, but failed to garner enough support to pass.
The board also considered a number of other funding alternatives for homeless services, including a millionaires’ tax, a parcel tax and a tax on marijuana, but could not agree on any option to put before voters in November.
Hundreds of people were in the audience to show support for the fight against homelessness, including billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and Los Angeles City Councilmen Gil Cedillo, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Jose Huizar.
Organizers who assembled a crowd outside on Temple Street before the board meeting said more than 75 organizations, including community advocates, labor unions and faith groups, had joined together to press for a March ballot measure on the issue. It took more than an hour for everyone to clear through security and some were forced to stand in the back of the packed board room, while others assembled outside listening to the meeting over loudspeakers.
“This is the face of democracy in the county,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Ridley-Thomas also joined with Supervisor Kathryn Barger on a proposal to have homelessness declared a county emergency, a move that paves the way to put the sales tax on the March ballot. That motion was also unanimously approved.
The board voted in June to press state officials to declare a statewide emergency and direct more funding to the problem. The Los Angeles City Council and some state lawmakers have echoed that call, but Gov. Jerry Brown has resisted such efforts.
Hahn said that if any other disaster – an earthquake, fire or flood – left 47,000 people homeless, “We would bring every resource we could and many people would stay up at night worrying” about how to get people back in their homes.
That January point-in-time count of the homeless reflects a 19 percent increase since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
“In contrast to almost anywhere else in the United States, most people who are experiencing homelessness in the county of Los Angeles are unsheltered,” the county’s Assistant CEO Fesia Davenport said.
The number of those in tent encampments, huddled under freeway overpasses or otherwise on the street account for nearly three-quarters of the 47,000 homeless people, according to the LAHSA data.
Cedillo recalled a recent trip to Hamburg, Germany, during which he didn’t see one homeless person.
“Not one person in this county should be sleeping on the streets,” Cedillo said.
Harris-Dawson told the board that the city of Los Angeles’ recent success in passing HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund the construction of housing for the homeless, cannot stand alone, as the city relies on the county to provide supportive services.
“HHH only works if the county can make an investment in services,” Harris-Dawson said.
The county and most advocates across the country now back a model called “housing first,” which focuses on getting people into housing in spite of drug, alcohol or other problems they may have and then offers mental health and substance abuse treatment and other supportive services.
Officials have learned, Hahn said, “It’s impossible to get your life together if you’re on the streets.”
Huizar told the board that he hoped voters understood the already high costs of homelessness in terms of emergency room and jail visits, among other expenses.
“It costs all of us more in one way or another if we leave these individuals in the street,” Huizar said.
It will cost $450 million annually to provide the supportive services, short-term housing subsidies and emergency shelter needed to end homelessness and keep people off the streets, according to LAHSA. That does not include the construction costs funded by HHH and other sources.
The quarter-cent sales tax is estimated to provide $355 million annually for 10 years. A sunset clause is built in for accountability and assessment.\
The absolute numbers are large, but Phil Ansell, the director of the county’s homeless initiative, broke it down for voters, saying the tax would amount to “an additional tax of one dime on the purchase of a $40 sweater or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television”
Two-thirds of voters will need to approve the measure for it to pass.
Other city and district elections might be consolidated on the March 7 countywide ballot.
When Ridley-Thomas first proposed a special election, he said three dozen other jurisdictions, including the city of Los Angeles, were set to hold elections in March. He estimated that a consolidated election would cost roughly $19 million, with the county to pay half.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger pressed state lawmakers to allocate additional funding to Medicaid so that more federal matching funds could be drawn down and used to provide services to the homeless.
“As we move forward, it shouldn’t be an either or, it should be an and,” Barger said of state versus county funding.
The Los Angeles City Council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance barring people from living in cars near homes, parks, schools and daycare facilities.
Under the ordinance, which must be signed by the mayor before taking effect, parking for habitation purposes will be prohibited from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. along residential streets with both single- and multi-family homes.
The restriction will apply all day for any street that is within a block or 500 feet of a school, park or daycare center.
The ordinance will theoretically still allow people to live out of their vehicles in commercial and industrial zones. Those who violate the ordinance will receive citations requiring them to pay penalties ranging from $25 to $75.
The ordinance will end after about 18 months. City officials said they need that amount of time at most to come up with an alternative homeless parking plan, such as one modeled after a Santa Barbara “safe parking” initiative that allows the homeless to camp their cars in parking lots.
The ban will replace an existing one that was in effect citywide, but was deemed unconstitutional.
Several attorneys and advocates for the homeless have warned that the new ban could still run afoul of the rights of the homeless, raising concerns that the ordinance will be a financial hardship on homeless people and, in effect, make homelessness a crime.
Some council members have been critical of the ordinance. Joe Buscaino and Nury Martinez have said they represent communities with more industrial and commercial zones than other areas, so the ordinance would likely drive disproportionately more homeless people to their districts.
The Los Angeles City Council gave tentative approval Wednesday to a ban of living in cars in residential areas and near parks and daycare facilities.
The ordinance would still theoretically allow people who live in their cars to park their vehicles in commercial and industrial zones.
City Council members who supported the proposed ordinance said Wednesday that the ban would replace an existing ban that was in effect citywide but was deemed unconstitutional.
However, several attorneys and homeless advocates warned that the new ban could still run afoul of the rights of the homeless. They raised concerns that the proposed ordinance, which includes citations ranging from $25 to $75 for violations, would be a financial hardship on homeless people and make homelessness into a crime.
They argued that the infraction penalties could add up, especially if court dates are missed or there are several violations. They also said the ban could invite new lawsuits, similar to those that invalidated other city laws targeting the homeless.
Under the proposed ordinance, parking for habitation purposes would be prohibited from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. along residential streets with both single- family and multi-family homes. The restriction would apply all day for any street that is within a block of a school, park or daycare center.
The ordinance would end after about 18 months, which city officials said would give them time to come up with an alternative homeless parking plan, such as one modeled after a Santa Barbara “safe parking” initiative that allows the homeless to park in parking lots.
The ordinance is being opposed by a few council members, including Joe Buscaino and Nury Martinez, who say they represent communities with more industrial and commercial zones than other areas, so the ordinance would likely drive more homeless people to their districts.
The ordinance, which was approved 11-1 with Buscaino casting the dissenting vote, is expected to return to the City Council for final consideration.
Buscaino said Wednesday he prefers a vehicle dwelling policy that would allow individual districts or neighborhoods to “opt-in” to allowing people to live out of their cars.
Most children in the United States spend their school days dreaming of their next birthday party or worrying whether they’re popular enough. Not America’s homeless youth.
Students like Jamie Talley, who first became homeless at age 2, are thinking about how the weather will affect their sleep and how to silence their growling stomachs during a test.
“I was pushed out of the world and left to survive on my own,” Talley said in a scholarship essay quoted by the Washington Post. “I had given up on the possibilities for me to become somebody.”
Fortunately, Talley had a teacher who helped her get Medicaid and pushed her to focus on her education.
But most homeless students don’t feel supported at school. They feel that their schools simply don’t have the funding, time, staff, community awareness, or resources to help, and that’s the way it’s always going to be. This feeling of invisibility continues to disconnect citizens with consistent housing from those without.
There are more than 1.3 million homeless students in the U.S., according to a new report by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates. Seventy-eight percent of homeless youth surveyed in the study have experienced homelessness more than once in their lives.
Why are so many of us disconnected from this crisis?
Many homeless students say they’re uncomfortable talking with their schools about their housing situation and the challenges that impact their ability to learn. Additionally, 94 percent of those surveyed stay with different people on an inconsistent basis, adding to the ambiguity that makes recognizing homelessness more difficult.
But it’s not like homelessness is a new phenomenon.
Since the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2003, experts and politicians in D.C. have repeatedly considered legislation to combat the issue. But they haven’t taken substantive action.
With roughly 490 unaccompanied youth, including 330 designated as homeless youth, filling the streets of America’s capital, the question is: What are we going to do about it?
The CEHRA report’s recommendations include focusing on outreach efforts, increased resources for homeless students, and developing national and local goals around increasing graduation rates.
These could be applied to any community in the country. We actually already have the backbone in place to combat the epidemic of youth homelessness across the nation.
Proper implementation of the Every Child Succeeds Act, signed into effect in December 2015, could help alleviate the current hurdles that make homeless students 78 percent more likely to drop out—like proof-of-residency requirements and the loss of records and credits when kids transfer schools.
These bureaucratic barriers have left homeless students scared to talk openly with their mentors and teachers about their situations.
The Department of Education must lead the fight for improved oversight standards, increased mentorship programs, and the enforcement of regulations that ensure students are provided with a fair and valuable education.
But improving school life for homeless students isn’t a cure-all. Increasing affordable housing is also key, especially in so-called “up-and-coming” city neighborhoods where houses stand boarded up next to luxury apartments.
Pushing low-income housing to the outskirts or into areas without modern conveniences is unjust. Instead, cities can redevelop already existing structures with sustainable green infrastructure. They can also take a note from California legislators, who proposed spending nearly $2 billion to create housing opportunities for their mentally ill homeless population.
Although addressing rising homelessness throughout the nation will require legislative change from the top, setting community goals and educating citizens about the realities of homelessness can help combat the sentiment of invisibility that plagues homeless students.
This way, when we pass a homeless person on the street, we’ll remember that person has a name, an identity, a passion, a story, and—most importantly—that they deserve fundamental rights and respect just like everyone else.
Roseangela Hartford recently completed at internship at Progressive Congress. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to place a bond measure on the November ballot aimed at raising money to address the city’s homelessness problem, and postponed consideration of a related parcel tax measure until Friday.
The council agreed to ask voters to authorize $1.2 billion in bonds to be issued over 10 years, but is also considering an alternative parcel tax measure that could raise $90 million per year until 2027 for homeless housing and services.
The council has yet to decide which revenue-raising strategy to advance and is being asked to place both the bond and tax measures on the ballot, at least for now. The council would have until Aug. 12 to withdraw one of the measures.
At least two City Council members — Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris- Dawson — are pushing for the bond proposal, with both pointing to recent polling indicating the public would be more receptive to it over a parcel tax measure.
Harris Dawson, who chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said the goal is to help get 10,000 units built to house the homeless. The revenue from the bond measure would be used to spur such housing projects, with the city acting as partner and the purchaser of the property where the housing is to be built.
“The council has decided to put before the voters an opportunity to make an investment in dealing with the homelessness crisis that we see in our city,” Harris-Dawson said. “Every indication that we have is that people are eager for a solution and are willing to pay for it.”
Huizar, who also sits on the homelessness committee, said in a statement that the vote to put the bond measure on the ballot was a “huge leap forward in addressing homelessness.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is leaning toward supporting the bond, rather than the parcel tax measure. He cited polling numbers and the amount of revenue that would be brought in to explain his preference.
The parcel tax would be calculated based on the square footage of improvements, while the bond measure would be paid back through taxes based on a property’s assessed value.
City officials estimate that under a $1.2 billion bond measure, property owners would generally need to pay an additional $4.50 to $17.50 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value, with the payments lasting for as many as 28 years.
The parcel tax measure calls for levying $0.0348 per square foot of a property’s improvements until 2027. City officials estimate the tax would bring in $90 million per year for the city to use in addressing homelessness.
City leaders last year vowed to tackle homelessness and to put about $100 million toward the effort. They estimate it will cost about $1.85 billion over a decade to adequately house and provide services to homeless individuals and families in Los Angeles. A recent count put the city’s transient population at about 27,000.
While city leaders point to polling, the president of an apartment owners group said members will likely be against the measures.
“We’re taxed to death already,” said Dan Faller, president of the Los Angeles-based Apartment Owners Association of California. “The city of Los Angeles already puts a cap on our income with our rent control, harass us with property inspections, and now they want to put more tax on us.”
He added that “apartment buildings have a lot more square footage than single-family houses, so they’re asking us to carry a lot more of the load.”
Faller said the council members should focus on what they are personally doing to help the homeless, rather than forcing property owners to put up the money.
“If they have this feeling for the homeless, let me see their tax returns and how much each of them … contribute now to the homeless and people who are not fed?” he said.
Faller said his group will likely look to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to fight the proposed measures.
Councilman Mike Bonin said this week — prior to a preliminary vote on the bond measure — said the city is moving forward despite a countywide proposal to put a “millionaires” tax on the ballot that would have high-income earners helping to pay for homeless housing and services. That proposal is stalled because Gov. Jerry Brown is “stubbornly not allowing the county to pursue” the measure, Bonin said.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said that with the bond measure, the individual bonds would only be issued when “projects surface.”
“We’re trying to avoid a situation where we’re borrowing more than what we need,” he said.
The money from either the parcel tax or the bond measure would be spent on housing for people who are homeless or in danger of being pushed onto the streets. The funds would also be earmarked for facilities that provide mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and other assistance.
City leaders are hoping to submit the proposed measure or measures by July 1 so that they can be placed on the November ballot.
The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday tentatively approved revisions to a law that prohibits the storage of property in public areas such as sidewalks, making it so that at least for now, transients will be allowed to keep 60 gallons worth of belongings.
The move came over the objections of advocates for the homeless, who say the law essentially makes homelessness a crime.
The council voted 13-1 to sign off on amendments – including the 60- gallon provision – to the city law known as 56.11 that prohibits tents and other living space to be set up between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and currently does not allow any storage of personal property in public areas.
Because the vote was not unanimous, the ordinance will return for a second and final vote on April 6.
Councilman Gil Cedillo voted against the revisions. He said there was no need to adopt such a measure because there are other laws that could address concerns raised today by homeowners and others about criminal activity, obstruction of accessibility in public areas and unsanitary conditions associated with homeless encampments.
Councilman Mike Bonin said he was not completely happy with the ordinance, but considered it an improvement over the one now on the books, which only allows homeless individuals to keep as many belongings as they can carry.
The City Council has been under pressure to strengthen the law against legal challenges from advocates for the homeless, and to avoid being seen as criminalizing them.
Top homeless services officials for the city and county also urged the city to change the law to remove any aspects that would criminalize homelessness, saying that failing to do so would jeopardize about $110 million in federal funding needed to provide housing and other services to the homeless.
The City Council voted last November to amend the law to remove aspects that could be seen as criminalizing homelessness. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the first chunk of the funding – $84.2 million – to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
But the City Council did not move until today to approve the actual language of the amendments promised last fall, and advocates for the homeless say the revisions still contain criminal penalties and provisions that would punish the homeless for being forced to live on the streets.
Under the revisions, it would be unlawful for homeless individuals and others who refuse to take down their encampments during the day or prevent a city employee from doing so.
It would also be a misdemeanor if an individual delays, resists or obstructs a city employee from moving, removing, impounding or discarding personal property stored in a public area.
Homeless individuals would be allowed to store a 60-gallon bin’s worth of belongings – including deconstructed tents, bedding, clothes, food, medicine, documents and other personal items – on the sidewalk as long as they are attended.
The city could still impound property that is left unattended and any property that is in excess of the 60 gallons, under the revised ordinance.
City attorneys said earlier this month the amendments are aimed at giving the city a way to keep sidewalks clear and accessible while allowing homeless individuals to keep some belongings if there are no other places to store them.
Assistant City Attorney Valerie Flores told the Homelessness and Poverty Committee that the 60-gallon provision was included in the hope of striking “the right balance,” but added that “this is sort of uncharted territory” in terms of whether the courts would accept it.
She said the provision is an improvement over the existing law, which “did not allow anything a person couldn’t carry.”
“We do believe this is a lawful ordinance and a court would appreciate the dueling interests that we’re trying to serve and hopefully uphold the ordinance,” Flores said.
The proposed ordinance could cost the Los Angeles area the remaining $24 million in HUD grants being sought by the city and county’s joint homelessness services authority “at a time when the city and county can scarcely afford to lose a single dollar in federal funding for the homeless,” , according to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
A transient was stabbed Thursday night during an argument with another transient in Boyle Heights.
The stabbing on Fourth Street near the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway was reported at about 7 p.m., said Sgt. Michael Castaneda of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Station.
A witness told police the two men might have been friends but they got into an argument before one man stabbed the other in the chest, Castaneda said.
The victim was taken to County-USC Medical Center for treatment of serious wounds, Castaneda said.
The suspect fled the scene, Castaneda said.
Outraged community members are organizing to demand answers from local authorities after some Recreational Vehicles parked along Figueroa Street in Highland Park were impounded on Friday.
Rebecca Prine, volunteer director with Recycled Resources for the Homeless—a nonprofit helping homeless—said via email the organization wasn’t notified about the sweep in front of the Sycamore Grove Park and blames local Councilman Gil Cedillo for leaving people in need without a home and with the possibility of increasing park and street homelessness.
Witness of the towing, Jaime Kate told EGP “two or three” RVs were towed “and at least one car.”
During the homeless count organized last month by the Los Angeles Homeless Authority—the agency in charge of providing services to homeless—over 30 Recreational Vehicles (RVs) were counted as permanent homes for people living in the northeast, according to Recycled Resources.
Prine said many of the RV residents are people displaced from their homes in the northeast as they were given rental increases they were unable to afford.
“Had Recycled Resources for the Homeless been made aware of this action we would have used funding we have collected to assist our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” said Prine.
Fredy Ceja, communications director with the councilman told EGP there was no sweep. “There are parking restrictions on Figueroa, which if not adhered to, result in fines.”
He explained that some of the RVs have been in the same location for over a year and Recycled Resources is aware of it.
“You can’t leave your car for a long period of time in the same spot.”
Constituents of the area have been complaining with the police and the councilman’s office due to “loitering and illicit activities,” said Ceja.
He said parking enforcement advised the owners to move their vehicles, and while some of the RVs moved across the street, others stayed in the same spot, which led to their towing.
Wednesday night community members reunited at the All Episcopal Church in Highland Park—which currently serves as shelter for over 30 homeless people—to talk about the issue and find solutions to assist people in getting their RVs back as well as to work in a solution to help the owners.
Recycled Resources stated that “this community belongs to everyone, not just those who can afford to live here,” and they would like to see resources for every social economic level in the community.
“We would like to work toward establishing a safe place for people to park RVs, with resources for bathrooms and waste disposal here in the community they call home,” said Prine.
Ceja said Cedillo’s office is looking for places to park the RVs without problems. In the mean time, he said it would be good if the church provides space to park some RVs on its parking lot.