HOMELESS WATCH - While summer progresses and people are out and about, sidewalk tents in downtown Hollywood are becoming more visible. To address this narrative, last December Mayor Karen Bass released Executive Directive No. 2 setting forth the Inside Safe Initiative. Then According to fiscal year 2023-2024 Budget Summary, this fiscal year Budget commits $1.3 billion to confront the crisis of homelessness, and from it $250 million to “bring people inside from tents and encampments and prevent encampments from returning.”
As of May 26, 2023, the Homelessness Emergency Account (HEA) established to fund Inside Safe, has expended approx. $2.8 million with approx. $47.2 million remaining. Based on projections of known services as of May 26, 2023, approx. $32.2 million is expected to be obligated by the end fiscal year, June 30, 2023. “However, based on the anticipated costs projected between May 26, 2023 and the end of fiscal year, we [CAO] expect that $39,895,103 will be obligated by the end of June 30, 2023”, per council file 22-1545.
The expenses incurred so far primarily consist of hotel and motel invoices, lease and operating costs of the LA Grand Hotel; LA Police Department, charges for encampment cleanup support; LA department of Transportation expenses for transportation of Inside Safe participants; LAHSA: related to service provider budgets for encampment resolution, (C.F. 23-0033).
In addition, as of May 26, 2023, the motel invoices in progress include 220 invoices received from 30 different hotels, totaling 33, 205 hotel room nights, (C.F. 22-1545).
Further, on February 24, 2023, the CAO released the revised 16 Roadmap Report authorizing the extension of the L.A. Grand Hotel lease from February 1, 2023 through February 1, 2024 to use as interim housing. The lease covers a total of 481 rooms at a rate of $154 per night including meals. Lease costs through June 30, 2023 are approximately $8.7 million, (C.F. 20-0841-S31)
There were two Inside Safe operations completed in April and two in May: The first operation in the area of El Pueblo in CD 14, housed 78 people. The second operation along the Grand Corridor in CD 9, housed 50 people. Next, on May 10, an encampment along San Vicente Boulevard in CD 5, housed 27 people. Then on May 11, along the Grand Corridor--south in CD 9, a continuation of an earlier completed operation, housed 54 people. According to the CAO metrics as of May 26, 2023, the number of initial placements were 1,286 people, “This amount may change pending further documentation.” (C.F. 22-1545)
“For the first time this administration, has been able to build programs quickly to manage and respond to the [Homelessness] crisis. It has moved resources in areas where traditionally it has not been done before in response to an immediately crisis,” said City Administrator Officer Matt Zabo at the June 17, 2023 Budget Day, hosted by the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates.
Homeless tent at the Hollywood Farmers Market photograph taken on June 24, 2023
In addition, Bernice Hollins from the Mayor’s Office at Budget Day 2023 said, We [the City is] are under a declared state of emergency, however, this crisis has existed for many years nothing has changed. The budget allocated this year is almost similar to the Budget of last year. However, what has changed is the amount of City General Fund monies that is going into the homeless response. Since clearing the encampment in Venice a lot of lessons have been learned, and we are applying best practices to bring down the cost of this response. A critical element that we know will bring down the cost of this program, of moving individuals out of encampments and into housing, is by the city acquiring our own permanent stock of interim housing. This will allow us to move away from incurring high costs for rentals of motel rooms, and be able to use property that we acquire specifically for interim housing and serve more people with the resources available. The funding that we have in the budget will allow us to bring in more outreach teams, we are working on realignment with the CAO, LAHSA and with all of our partners.
Lastly, at Budget Day 2023, City Administrator Officer Matt Zabo explained that in order for city efforts to be sustainable, it needs to have a seamless coordination with the state and county. In particular the County of Los Angeles because it has federal and state funding streams to address such a critical component of our Homelessness population, especially those with serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
The city is equipped to build things, we have programs that subsidies the construction of housing, what we don’t have currently is the capacity in terms of operations, funding streams in the area of social services in particular mental health services and substance abuse disorder services. Also, “we need permanent interim housing going forward as opposed to short to long term leases because we do not have it at the end. The motel is effective; is available housing right now at a monthly rate of $3,400 per person. But for the long term, having city control assets that we can use as necessary is the better way to go. Building a sustainable system with permanent supportive housing is a strong path to a solution,” said Matt Zabo.
(Connie Acosta, is a participant of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council System and a contributing writer to CityWatchLA.)