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I am writing in regard to the recent articles discussing the City Council’s formation of a homeless committee and the mayor’s opposition to Measure H.

I am a Santa Clarita Valley resident and I also happen to be the executive director of PATH, a large homeless services organization that works across the county, including in Santa Clarita.

I grew up in Santa Clarita, and my entire family still lives here. We’ve all seen homelessness in our community and the rest of the county worsen over the years, and I’ve dedicated my life and career to working to address it.

I am thrilled that the Santa Clarita City Council will be studying solutions to homelessness more in depth, and I have reached out to Mayor Smyth and Councilwoman McLean to offer my assistance as they seek to learn more about the issue and approaches that have worked in other communities.

Yet I was disappointed to see that Mayor Smyth opposes Measure H, which would finally provide funding across Los Angeles County for approaches that have been proven to work.

PATH works in communities of every type and make-up across California from San Diego to San Jose, and in the past four years, we have helped more than 7,000 families, veterans, and chronically homeless individuals make it home.

We, and the other effective organizations that work in this field, including Bridge to Home, L.A. Family Housing, and so many others we are fortunate enough to partner with, have learned over the decades what it takes to truly end homelessness.

But the resources have never been there. We scrape together what we can, when we can, and try to make a difference where we can, all the while knowing exactly what needs to be done – just not being able to do it.

So we, as a community of providers and advocates and others who know what it takes, fought for years to change the systems, create the partnerships, build the political will, and get the resources to do what we know needs to be done.

Countless people from so many different agencies across every sector of L.A. County who deal with homelessness each day – businesses, housing, law enforcement, EMS, health care, social services, nonprofits, government, faith, education and more – have worked for so long to get to the moment last year when the county Board of Supervisors approved the strategies of the county Homeless Initiative that we all helped to create and can all stand behind.

And we continued to push for an ongoing revenue source that would allow us to actually implement those strategies and sustain them for the long term.

Our elected officials listened and unanimously voted to give all of us, residents of L.A. County, the chance to finally commit the resources it takes to really do something about homelessness. We get to do that by voting “yes” on Measure H on March 7.

Mayor Smyth says it’s too much too soon with the other taxes recently passed. Measure H is a quarter-cent sales tax that will cost the average consumer about $12 per year. I, for one, am willing to give up the equivalent of three lattes a year to help 45,000 people – including far too many families, veterans, and seniors – move off the streets and back into our communities, where they belong, and to prevent homelessness for 30,000 more. It’s not something that can wait until our parks and roads are built and other taxes have expired.

Mayor Smyth also says he questions the motives of putting this on a special election ballot with a likely low voter turnout.

Rest assured, we all wanted this to be on the ballot in November when we knew it would pass – just like Proposition HHH (the L.A. City homelessness bond measure) did – with more than three-quarters of people voting to approve it.

Unfortunately, March was the soonest it could happen, and we’re all worried about what a low, typically more conservative turnout might mean.

But we’re trying to get out the vote, and we’re hoping that the people of L.A. County agree that homelessness is too important of an issue to ignore any longer.

Finally, Mayor Smyth asks where the money has gone that was supposed to be funding homeless programs in the first place. To that I would simply say that there would be far more than the 47,000 now homeless in L.A. County if it weren’t for those previous resources.

And I would refer him to the countless current and former SCV residents that PATH, Bridge to Home, and others who administer those programs have helped who would otherwise still be living in the wash, or in their cars, or in other places more destitute than you or I could ever imagine.

The solutions that the council’s ad hoc committee seeks are already known. They are laid out in the county’s strategies, and Measure H is what’s needed to make them happen.

We know exactly what it takes to end homelessness, but if we can’t fund it, we never will.

Katie Hill is executive director and deputy CEO of PATH, a statewide nonprofit organization to end homelessness. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Northridge and is a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley.

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Comments
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  • John Palahnuk

    Let’s be honest, another well intentioned government program doesn’t solve the route cause of this problem. All a new tax payer funded free hand out will do is increase the number of open hands looking for a free hand out. It is human nature and indisputable. If public money is the route we choose to take, then let’s spend that money to encourage the creation of new jobs and new technologies. The truth will set us free.

    • Brian Baker

      Well said, John.

  • Jim de Bree

    Ms. Hill, I applaud your efforts to help the homeless. As I stated in my column, homelessness is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with.

    One of the problems I have with Measure H is that backers of tax increases always imply that the cost will be nominal. Personally I find these comments to be rather disingenuous. Proposition H is no exception. Ms. Hill made the following comment in her column:

    “Measure H is a quarter-cent sales tax that will cost the average consumer about $12 per year. I, for one, am willing to give up the equivalent of three lattes a year to help 45,000 people…”

    An incremental $12 presumes that the hypothetical average consumer will make $4,800 of taxable purchases annually. How do you define the term, “average consumer?” The per capita income in Los Angeles County is about $28,000. Per capita amounts are obtained by dividing all income of LA County residents by the number of residents. Thus, for example, children are included in the denominator even though they don’t likely pay sales tax. Therefore the denominator in the sales tax per capita calculation is overstated causing the amount spent per capita to be understated.

    Another way of stress testing this is to look at the IRS sales tax tables. The IRS publishes tables which compute an extremely conservative estimate of sales tax for taxpayers who do not keep track of the actual sales tax spent. To put the conservative nature of the IRS sales tax tables into perspective. When my clients used Quicken’s sales tax estimator calculating taxes based on actual purchases, the amount computed typically was double what was shown in the IRS tables.

    According to the IRS 2016 sales tax tables, the average sales tax by a Santa Clarita resident making $28,000 is $677. That assumes a 9% tax rate. Therefore a quarter percent sales tax under the IRS tables (which tend to understate taxable purchases) is about $19 per year for someone making $28,000. The IRS tables do not consider the impact of major purchases such as automobiles, etc. Assume that the average vehicle purchase in Los Angeles County costs $15,000 (a low number) and the average person owns their car for three years. That comes to a cost of $5,000 per year. That is another $12.25 per year.

    So based on this analysis, the suggested sales tax per capita is more like about $30 per year using the IRS tables. The actual amount may be as much as $20 higher.

    When I wrote my column, I looked at the average household in Santa Clarita, which is a more objective measure than the “average consumer” used by Ms. Hill. The average household income in the SCV is ~$90,000. At that income level, about a third of income is spent on taxable purchases. Assuming that one third of that income is spent on taxable purchases, the incremental sales tax imposed on the average household is about $75. The IRS sales tax tables corroborate this calculation. So this is probably a conservative estimate of what a Santa Clarita Household can expect to pay.

    The average household in Santa Clarita has 3.37 residents. That means the tax per resident using my calculation methodology would be about $23 per person—nearly double the amount quoted by Ms. Hill. The actual amount is likely to be even higher.

    One of the problems with all of the measures asking taxpayers for money is that the estimated costs are always understated. Why can’t the supporters of the measures provide more reliable cost estimates?

  • Steve Petzold

    It is disingenuous for Ms Hill to represent her organization as “scrapping money together but never having enough.” According to the 2015 Form 990 for PATH , it has revenue of nearly $20,000,000 and Katie Hill’s compensation is $135,000 per year.

  • lois eisenberg

    “Katie Hill: Funding known solutions” BRAVO, BINGO, AND AMEN !!!!!

  • lois eisenberg

    Just submitted the comment below by another opinion column contributor;
    “High cost of feel good taxes”

    What is creepy is that a pittance of one cent only one-quarter of one percent increase in the sales tax to help another human being live a better life and not wanting this
    increase is inhuman !!!!!!!
    THE HORROR, THE HORROR

    • Brian Baker

      To which I replied:

      A pittance here and a pittance there, and pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.

      That’s a paraphrase of something Everette Dirkson said. You should look it up. Educate yourself (though that’s probably too much trouble for you).

      “… to help another human being live a better life and not wanting this
      increase is inhuman !!!!!!!”

      Spoken like a true Marxist.

    • Brian Baker

      And:

      BTW, on the subject of quotes, you should try to be at least a LITTLE original, and come up with some of your own, instead of just parroting mine.

      Though since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess I’m flattered. Or at least I would be if it were by someone with a bit more native creativity.