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Mayor’s 2024-2025 Budget:  Will it Eliminate or Add City’s Shelters for Women Fleeing Domestic Violence?

Photo taken by writer of homeless woman sleeping in park along Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake

LOS ANGELES

GUEST COMMENTARY - According to the 2019 LA Women Needs Assessment, 26.4% of women who slept most frequently in shelters also reported having experienced sexual assault in the last year.  This study did not mention the women who sleep in the streets. 

Homelessness takes a top priority in the 2024-2025 Proposed Budget. District 3 Council member Bob Blumenfield, Chair of the L.A. City Budget, Finance and Innovation Committee, included in his opening statement on April 30 Budget Hearings, “Homelessness Budget …We do need to focus and make sure that this spending is done in a more accountable and transparent manner. It is my sincere hope that we honor and share commitments to any homelessness and fully fund outreach, housing and services as proposed in this Budget.“

 

Homeless woman with walker camps out for days at Sunset Blvd/Edgecliff Dr. in CD13, photo taken by CA on 5/9/24

At the May 6, 2024, Budget Hearings, Community Investment for Families, Abigail Marquez, General Manager described the Community Investment for Families Department as providing diverse programs to keep families from falling into homelessness.  Besides the Family children-education and housing services to low-income family, “evidence shows that providing these services uplift Angelenos from poverty.” 

At the hearing, Ms. Marquez, said that last year, a program that she oversees in her department, serving survivors of domestic violence and trafficking (SDV-T) closed a shelter because the funding did not come through from the Domestic Violence Trust Fund for FY 2023-2024. [on record in Mayor’s Proposed Budget, FY 2024-2025, Community Investments for Families, Sources of Funds, page 76, shows ZERO Funding received from the Domestic Violence Trust Fund indeed in FY 2023-24 Adopted Budget. 

Additionally, on the same page above, for fiscal year 2022-23, the actual expenditures for the DVT Program were $995, and its source of funding was from the Domestic Violence Trust Fund (Sch29). According to the same reference above, page 77, the department’s highest source of funding comes from the general fund with a 78% proposed allocation for fiscal year 2024-25 totaling $27.70 million with 76 positions noted.
 Program, shelters are also funded from the Victims of Crime Acts --VOCA. Victims fleeing from domestic violence and trafficking is the number one reason for homelessness, Marquez explained. “Last year, decreased funding of 45% turned down 9,000 survivors seeking shelters because of capacity constraints. We cannot afford to lose any more beds.” 

 Also, losing VOCA funding may reduce or eliminate our outreach, hotlines, and case management services, and worst women fleeing violence will become homeless, which impacts further delays and eliminates legal assistance, said Marquez.  Councilmember for CD 5, Katy Yaroslavsky sympathized at the Budget Hearings with the general manager and said she was aware of this significant shelter closing. She will revisit the funding transmittal and Council File of April 2024 regarding this matter. Then, Councilmember for CD 7, Monica Rodriguez added that Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides the LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) with funding for sheltering homeless women in a certain category that may possibly assist with this important matter. 

Department oversees 19 Family Source Centers across the city; 230 contracts with over $250 million worth of grants from local, state and the federal government. “Our funding is at risk; if we do no use the money, it affects our funding for next year. We need not to lose the Community Benefits Grant (CDBG),” Marquez expressed.

For example, Kids First Program is a grant that serves unhoused children and families in the San Fernando Valley, identified by their continuous absence from school. 

Interestingly, this Department, spends about 50%+ of their total budget on contractual services, with allocations of $23.87 million for next Fiscal Year 2024-25; estimated contractual services expenditures for FY 2023-24 are $24.30 million; and, actual expenditures for FY 2022-23 were 11.02 million for contractual services. 

Council member Monica Rodrigues emphasized in her opening address at the April 30 Budget Hearings that private contracts or consulting services that are being secured and are not providing very transparent and measurable outcomes need to be held accountable. “We cannot exchange city workforce for private contracting that is not very clear in providing measurable outcomes,” she said.

Woman sleeping at the Figueroa Street underpass below Temple Street in a rainy day in March 2024.

Marquez explained that the department is facing a misalignment, as the expansion of services grow, city funding is shrinking making it difficult to pay for additional staff.  

Perhaps, this department needs to re-examine priorities and purpose to be able to afford additional beds for those victims seeking shelter as a result of domestic violence and trafficking. Rethink the rental spaces of Family source Centers and their locations. Must they be in expensive high towers such as 3731 Wilshire Boulevard in oversized office spaces instead of in neighborhood storefronts accessible to those in need? 

Studies show that women sleeping in the streets have a high risk of being violated or killed and the task of providing shelter to those who are vulnerable is an honorable and respectful vocation. 

(Connie Acosta is a writer and board member of the City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council system and NC Budget Advocate, speaking as an individual.)

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