Homeless Rehousing System in Los Angeles Hampered by Long Shelter Stays: Officials

Homeless Rehousing System in Los Angeles Hampered by Long Shelter Stays: Officials
Inside a tiny home in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Jamie Joseph/The Epoch Times)
City News Service

LOS ANGELES—Around one-fifth of people living in interim housing shelters in Los Angeles moved into permanent housing over the last fiscal year, according to data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Sept. 26.

The data was part of a new set of key performance indicator metrics presented by the agency to measure the progress of people experiencing homelessness through the rehousing system.

Of the 20,000 adults in interim housing, around 4,000 exited to permanent housing. That was nearly double the amount in 2019, but an indication that a majority of homeless people still do not find permanent housing even after receiving temporary services.

Molly Rysman, chief program officer of LAHSA, said at a news briefing that ideally, an interim shelter bed could serve four or five people a year.

“We are seeing extraordinary lengths of stay,” Rysman said. “A lot of people staying in shelter for months and months and months and months. And that is not what we want to see. That’s a very unpleasant experience for the people in the interim housing and it doesn’t lead to the outcomes we want.”

The figure is similar to the proportion of homeless individuals who move off the streets and into interim housing. Over the last fiscal year, 17 percent of the 42,000 people who were engaged by LAHSA’s Street Outreach team moved into interim housing.

“Our outreach teams say they struggle every day to find available beds and it makes their job much harder, that they have to work so hard and engage people over and over again while they’re waiting for a bed to become available,” Rysman said. “People lose hope and people move and we can’t find them, and it creates a lot of challenges.”

Rysman called for more housing resources to move people out of interim shelters quicker.

LAHSA’s most recent homeless count, released earlier this month, showed a 4.1 percent increase in the number of homeless people in Los Angeles since 2020. However, it has come under criticism regarding the accuracy of the count.

City Council President Nury Martinez introduced two motions last week: one calling for options to have a third party conduct the city’s annual homeless count and one calling for a multi-year audit of LAHSA’s previous counts.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that LAHSA returned $29 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development between 2015 and 2020. LAHSA officials told the newspaper that the federal department’s funding system lacked flexibility.