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The End of ‘Ending Homelessness’ In LA

DOWNTOWN LA- Last week, the 2015 Homeless Count numbers were finally released publicly. It confirmed what we already knew to be true- Homelessness is up by 12% in Los Angeles County. 

What this now-confirmed increase automatically says is all the hoopla about “Ending Homelessness” can finally be deemed as “worthless empty rhetoric”. With NO end in sight, how can ANYONE continue to shout this failed marketing slogan with a straight face? (And beware of those who do!) 

The United Way, LA Chamber of Commerce and the LA Business Leader’s Task Force on Homelessness all came together in November, 2010 and at a who’s who press conference boldly claimed that they would “End All Chronic Homelessness in LA in 5 Years” through their Home For Good project. Well, they have 6 months left to “walk on water”. 

The new Homeless Count numbers also render other so-called solutions as worthless and ineffective, such as the Continuum of Care and the Coordinated Entry System. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) stated last Friday that the highly-touted CES homeless data tracking model began in 2011. Four years later, the Homeless Count’s disappointing numbers validate that this service provider effort is incapable of deflecting any of the onslaught of increasing homelessness since the last Homeless Count in 2013. 

In fact, not only was it unable to slow homelessness down, it can be argued that the Coordinated Entry System played a part in “creating” more homelessness, especially when identifying it’s log-jam at both the initial entry point and also at it’s waiting list backlog point. 

Last month, the LA City Council approved an Ad Hoc Homeless Committee. One of their initial objectives was to promote the CES model of ending homelessness. With the current homeless statistics before them, City Council obviously needs to rethink their collective position of supporting such a flawed solution with a now-tarnished reputation. 

It would be wiser for them to create a newer system from within City government (most likely through said Ad Hoc Homeless Committee) than lazily rely on an outside entity who has to lick it’s freshly-opened wounds.  Or, they could invite other entities to the table to create all-new and viable solutions. 

This is a perfect place for the Skid Row Neighborhood Council to intervene. Afterall, NONE of the other solutions are working. With ZERO reductions anywhere in this Homeless Count, it’s time to scrap everything on the table before us.  There also needs to be a SENSE OF URGENCY to create any and all new solutions because Downtown LA’s revitalization efforts may suffer as folks hesitate to move there in light of the eye-opening stats which clearly state that more people are becoming homeless in LA, not less. 

Over the years, many Skid Row residents and community activist leaders have been overly critical of the “homeless expert’s” lackluster solutions which all “suffered a death blow” in one swoop during LAHSA’s Board of Commissioners meeting. 

LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn was given the task of “the executioner” as he officially made the data public in a presentation to LAHSA’s Commissioners. One glaring omission was Lynn’s misrepresentation of SPA 4 (Service Provider Area), which includes Skid Row, as not being LA County’s area with the most significant increase in homelessness. In examining slides 16 and 17 of Lynn’s presentation (which can be found on LAHSA’s website), Metro LA area (SPA 4) had a larger increase than SPA 1 (Antelope Valley), SPA 7 (East LA) and SPA 8 (South Bay) which were declared the top three areas with the most increase in homelessness.     

Apparently, there was an effort to “soften the blow”, especially as it relates to Downtown LA. In the end, however, the numbers speak for themselves (And they speak volumes!). 

The time is now for change. The first Homeless Count was performed 10 years ago in 2005. Lynn announced that instead of every other year, the Homeless Count will now be performed each year. The next count will be in 2016. 

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Not sure if counting more often is being counted (pun intended) as a solution, but it CLEARLY isn’t enough. What was most disappointing was to listen to LAHSA’s Board of Commissioners after the presentation/announcement. Several Board members stated that they “needed to FIND the solutions” to end homelessness. One can easily deduct that if you need to find it, you don’t currently have it. 

Now that the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of homeless folks across LA County have been crushed, any and all persons in homeless solutions leadership positions should PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE for letting us all down. We counted on them, and they let us down….in a drastic way. 

If any of these individuals and organizations continue to receive funding (be rewarded) for their incompetence, a Federal “State of Emergency” needs to be declared to initiate the “cleaning house” efforts of this failed regime. Skid Row is the “homeless capitol of America” and is within LA County. This county region, by far, has the most homeless folks living in inhumane conditions in the entire country. 

Lastly, everyone should immediately stop using the failed marketing slogan of “Ending Homelessness” and support the City Council’s Ad Hoc Homeless Committee and the creation of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council and get behind the NEW solutions these two entities are sure to create, initiate and implement. 

Otherwise, it’s more of the same “doom and gloom” results and more anticipation of increased homelessness across the board in future homeless counts. 

To “end homelessness”, one must do more than simply say it.   

 

(General Jeff is a homeless activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 41

Pub: May 19, 2015