By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
After months in the making, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness is ready for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to consider embracing its recommendations.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion calling for the commission, hosted a remote media seminar Monday to explain why the recommendations made by the commission matter and what they mean.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is slated to vote on them.
Barger and co-author Supervisor Hilda Solis want the county to adopt seven recommendations made by the commission, including a call to create a county entity mandated to deal with homelessness and to identify the person to lead it.
A designated entity could then be held accountable, Barger said during the seminar.
“Accountability begins when you have one entity that can be held accountable and right now city points to the county and the county points to the city and there is no accountability whatsoever,” said Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The goal is to hold one entity accountable,” she said.
Other recommendations include:
– Taking existing funds earmarked for local solutions to homelessness and folding them into a new local solutions fund.
– Streamlining services within the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
– Consolidating the Authority’s Commission, the Continuum of Care Board, and the CES (Coordinated Entry System) Policy Council into a single body.
– Improving the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s operations, in part, by writing up policies that define the decision-making responsibilities of the Authority’s Commission.
– Improving the way data relating to homelessness is shared between agencies.
– Putting together an executive-level “Action Team” by convening a small, no more than 10-person group of executive-level leaders representing Los Angeles County, its 88 cities, the state and other relevant stakeholders.
“The status quo is not working,” Barger said during the seminar. “And, as an elected official, it is my job to step up the plate and say ‘we need to change’ and that’s exactly what I’m proposing tomorrow with supervisor Solis.”
“People don’t care how the sausage is made,” she said. “It is our job is to work together.”
“My commitment has, and always will be, to work not only with the city of L.A. but with all 87 cities because homelessness is prevalent not only in L.A. city but throughout the county,” she said. “Anyone that thinks what’s going on right now is satisfactory is living in a cave.”
Seminar guest Sarah Dusseault, co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, was asked at one point about the need for a designated entity mandated to address homelessness.
“Right now there are barriers to access,” she said, sharing the example of barriers standing in the way of someone moving from interim housing to permanent housing.
“And that’s the idea behind the county entity – to be able to cut through those barriers,” Dusseault said.
“Homelessness is really complex, and almost always tied to some form of trauma,” she said. “For everybody experiencing homelessness, It is a trauma-related event.”
Seminar guest Ronald Williams shared firsthand experiences of homelessness and his journey out of it.
“My journey of homelessness is well worth it because the things that I have achieved in my life I would have never been able to do because I would not have been able to relate or understand the barriers and the challenges of homeless and re-entry,” he said.
“Homelessness is trauma,” Williams said.
“When you’re going through a trauma it is hard to reveal your vulnerabilities and to be able to say, ‘Hey, I need assistance navigating this new and post-COVID employment search strategy of how to obtain gainful employment while at the same time meeting my own needs and also getting counseling.’”