Los Angeles to Seek Rental Subsidies to House Homeless

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
September 22, 2021 Updated: September 22, 2021

The City of Los Angeles will seek increased rental subsidies to house its growing homeless population, particularly those with physical and mental health concerns.

The city voted to advance the Housing Now Fund on Sept. 21, which would partner with Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services to instruct the city administrative officer to find funds available to increase flexible rental subsidies and provide physical and mental health services for 10,000 homeless people.

According to the motion, the city currently has 15,000 shelter beds and 24,600 permanent housing slots. The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) 2020 data estimates, however, that 28,852 of the 41,290 total homeless are unsheltered, while 12,438 are sheltered.

LAHSA estimated a 14.3 percent increase in homeless from 2019 to 2020; some believe that the homeless population in Los Angeles is growing at a faster rate than the local government can address with resources and shelter.

Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-introduced the motion with Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Curren Price, said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times that the additional capacity and resources that the funding could provide would help the city tackle the growing rate of homelessness.

“Successful street engagement depends on having a supply of affordable and supportive housing that is readily available to place unhoused clients without delay. We need to accelerate our investment in these long-term permanent housing solutions, if we want to make a difference in the lives of our unsheltered residents,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“We need to work at the scale that this crisis requires. The Housing Now Fund envisions creating 10,000 new slots of permanent supportive housing using the tried and tested model of Los Angeles County’s Housing for Health Program. There is no better medicine for someone suffering from physical and mental health challenges on the street than supportive housing. Prescribing “housing now” is the right remedy.”

At the council meeting, Bonin said the program would likely be more cost-effective than other city-led programs.

“What’s really key about this isn’t just that it’s fast, but that it’s cost-effective,” Bonin said. “This is actually less expensive than many of the interventions that we rely on. In many cases, this is less expensive than bridge housing; this is less expensive than tiny homes.”

Some Angelenos who regularly work with the homeless, however, think that inexpensive and rapidly-built shelters are not always the solution for everyone.

Peggy Lee Kennedy, of Venice Justice and Service Not Sweeps, told the Epoch Times in a previous interview that temporary shelters were not a “one-size-fits-all” deal.

“Shelters are not great for everybody; it could be a really traumatizing experience. We need permanent solutions … you can’t just throw shelter at people, expect it to work—it’s not working,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said homeless encampment cleanups are especially hard on those with major mental health issues, whose tents are often destroyed; she said they often end up displaced because shelters don’t have mental health solutions for them.

Reba Stevens, Homeless Lived Experience Community Advocate, said in an emailed statement that resources and support should be readily available for effective street engagement.

“This is especially important for individuals in need of mental health services and supportive housing,” Stevens said. “The collaboration with the County Department of Mental Health is crucial for connecting some of our most vulnerable houseless neighbors with permanent housing that serves their needs long-term. I applaud the City Council for adopting this important motion.”

The motion would also direct the city administrative officer, along with the city’s Housing Authority and the Los Angeles Housing Department, to report to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee in 30 days on the subsidy needs of current, temporary, and permanent housing programs.

It also instructs the city administrative officer to create recommendations to create 10,000 ongoing flexible housing subsidies for the Housing Now Program.

Bonin did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.