Just a month after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency on homelessness, the board voted 5-0 to approve a $609.7-million, one-year plan and an additional $76.9 million to expand housing and other services.
The motion introduced by Supervisors Kathryn Barger, 5th District, and Lindsey Horvath, 3rd District, outlined one of the largest investments in any given year to date addressing homelessness for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“Our declarations focus on streamlining processes, targeting hiring, housing services, contracting and procurement, spending, communication and community outreach services,” Horvath said during the Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday morning.
“Although these improvements may seem technical in nature, their result will have a very tangible, immediate impact on our ability to face the crisis before us,” she continued.
According to the county agenda, this $609.7 million represents an additional $61.8 million over last year’s allocation of $547.8 million, an increase of about 11%. Measure H and state Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention grants funded the 2023-24 budget brought forth by county staff.
According to Horvath, a component of their motion would reduce the hiring time for essential staff such as outreach workers and mental health clinicians. It would also incentivize hiring to fill long-vacant county positions in a competitive labor market.
In doing so, the county would be able to expand its Department of Mental Health teams and other agencies that work in outreach or that provide a variety of services for homeless individuals.
The plan outlined three key missions for the county, in collaboration with cities and other local partners to work toward, including: reducing encampments to bring unsheltered people indoors; increasing interim and permanent housing placements; ramping up mental health and substance use disorder services for homeless people.
Barger, whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley, noted these recommendations brought forth would push the county’s work forward, quicker and timelier as it responds to the homelessness crisis.
She also noted the importance of transparency and accountability as the county moves forward with its plan.
“We have developed a system of accountabilities and I think that system serves us well when we are not in an emergency,” Barger said during the meeting. “And when I say that, I say that because you don’t see in our annual audits, our single audit reports, you don’t see the county coming back with a bunch of findings related to not following rules.”
“You see us managing our budget in a responsible fashion. One of the issues that we’re facing, however, is that the system of accountabilities doesn’t work in an emergency,” she continued. “One of the things that we want to do is we want to streamline some of those systems of accountabilities, those rules.”
County staff highlighted various actions that the budget will fund, including monies for 22,130 permanent supportive units, expanding the total inventory by 4,630. This type of housing serves people who have the most complex needs such as chronic medical and or behavior health conditions.
The allocation includes more than $60 million in “time-limited” rental subsidies to quickly house people who have recently become homeless and offer them help until they can take on rent themselves. The budget will also fund 5,029 interim housing beds to reduce the number of people living in encampments, in addition to the 20,000 that already exist.
In addition, the budget would allocate money for prevention measures, or “problem solving,” for people to identify viable temporary or permanent housing, and other resources. It also introduced a 40% increase in funding for programs to help people gain stability such as securing benefits, employment and income support.
Lastly, of the $609.7 million, $25.5 million will be allocated for the purpose of reducing encampments and co-invest in housing between the county and its partners.
The Board of Supervisors approved an additional $76.9 million to fund focused projects such as the Skid Row Action Plan, aimed to address the residents in that area; Every Women Housed program, designed to mitigate homelessness for women and families on Skid Row; the RV encampment program, which is committed to annually assisting 300 people living in recreational vehicles to find safer housing solutions; and specialized outreach to people camped in high-severity fire zones in unincorporated areas of the county.
“Budgets reflect priorities and I’m pleased this year’s allocation includes funding our city partners, so they have adequate resources to do their part,” Barger said in a prepared statement. “I’ve consistently voiced my belief that municipalities know their communities best and can craft housing solutions developed and supported locally.”
A portion of that $76.9 million, approximately $20 million, will be allocated to a newly established ongoing Local Solutions Fund that cities and other councils of government can access to help people move out of encampments and into housing.
An additional $5 million will be included into an existing $10 million investment for the Cities and COGs Interim Housing Fund. According to county officials, seven projects throughout the county were awarded monies from this account to support interim housing sites.
“Combined with the declaration of a local emergency, this spending plan puts dedicated resources to work where they can do the best as the county and its partners respond urgently to the crisis at hand,” Fesia Davenport, L.A. County chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.