Julian Turner (right), part of Metro’s homeless outreach team, chats with two young men outside the Pershing Square stop.; Credit: Rina Palta, KPCCRina Palta
The L.A. Metro system is trying a new approach with homeless people who use trains as shelter.
The program, in its pilot phase, consists of an outreach group that has been riding the Metro Red Line five days a week since May, talking with every homeless person they see. The team consists of a nurse, formerly homeless individuals, social workers, and mental health specialists.
The purpose is twofold: help L.A. County’s effort to end homelessness and improve quality of life for Metro riders. So far, they’ve made contact with some 1,400 homeless people.
The group meets at Union Station each morning and splits into groups of two to start riding the trains.
“The population on the trains is very mobile,” said Karen Florence of PATH. “Typically with a lot of outreach work, you’re going to an encampment, you’re getting to know people over a period of time. We don’t really have that opportunity here.”
They try to talk to people at the station entrance or on the platforms. On the trains, it can be hard to hear.
“People don’t want so much attention called to them,” she said.
Between 7th Street and Pershing Square, Julian Turner, one of the outreach workers spots a girl lying on a seat under a blanket. The two have a brief exchange before he gets off the train at the next stop. He was checking to make sure she remembered her appointment in a couple hours at a potential shelter, he said.
Turner knows a lot of the Red Line regulars by sight now.
“I worry about all of them, but her because she’s real small,” he said. “One time when I first met her I thought it was just a blanket in the seat.”
Now, Turner said, he’s located an aunt living out of state who the girl might be able to live with. In the meantime, he wants to get her into a small shelter that resembles a home environment.
As the morning goes on, the team will meet a young couple, expecting their first baby and looking for shelter. And a young man who lost all his belongings and his dog the night before when he was mugged.
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who joined the team for an outing Thursday morning, said the outreach team has been a shining success and is due for expansion with dollars from Measure H, a new sales tax for homeless services.
“It makes it abundantly clear that no one really wants to be homeless, what they want and need is help to get out of homelessness,” he said.
Pointing at a public restroom stall near Pershing Square, he said the city and county have come a long way from the time when setting up a restroom was considered a solution to the homeless problem.
“That is stopgap at best,” he said. “What you need is these outreach teams, these mental health workers, these substance abuse workers, housing.”
Metro is hoping to add two to three more teams to serve other lines in the coming months. L.A. County is also putting together similar teams to work encampments in every region of the county. The county’s set aside $73 million for expanding outreach in the first three years of Measure H.
Antonio Garcia, 27, has been homeless in Van Nuys for about two years. “I’m trying to hang in here,” Garcia says. He’s focused on teaching and helping homeless youth struggling with addiction.; Credit: Maya Sugarman/KPCCRina Palta
Over 12,000 young people are homeless in California on any given night, and a group of state lawmakers is looking for ways to tackle the growing problem.
Officials held a joint informational meeting of the State Assembly and Senate Human Services Committees at the Los Angeles LGBT Center in Hollywood Tuesday to hear testimony from a variety of experts and formerly homeless youth.
“One segment of our homeless population that has not received enough focus, resources, and attention, and too often are invisible to the population are youth,” said Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco.
While it has increased its investments in homeless youth in recent years, the state does not invest enough specific resources in children and young adults who lack housing, said Assembly Member Blanca Rubio of Baldwin Park.
The state legislature made some strides with a package of bills to promote housing affordability, she said, but “one of the issues we didn’t address is youth homelessness and I think it should have been part of the discussion.”
Los Angeles has seen a considerable spike in youth homelessness over the past few years.
A count conducted in January tallied 5,847 homeless youth in L.A.’s continuum of care, which includes all of the county except for Long Beach, Glendale, and Pasadena. Those cities conduct their own counts.
The same count from 2016 found 3,540 homeless youth.
Some of the highest concentrations are in metro Los Angeles, Southeast L.A. and the Antelope Valley.
When youth who are couch surfing or living in motels are included in the tally, it rises dramatically.
Using that definition, the Los Angeles County Office of Education counted 63,000 homeless kids in L.A.’s public schools. A recent study found one in five students in L.A.’s community colleges is homeless and statewide, a study of the California State University system found one in ten students in that system is homeless.
Advocates told the panel of lawmakers homeless youth are disproportionately coming out of the foster care system and juvenile justice system. Many are LGBTQ teens who were kicked out of their homes.
L.A. County has dedicated Measure H funds to the population and is planning to increase the number of shelter beds for youth and further build out the long-term housing options for young adults.
Three quarters of youth experiencing homelessness in L.A. County are unsheltered.
“We have an opportunity to bring a lot of services to scale and we’re excited about that,” said Peter Lynn, director of the L.A. Homeless Services Authority. “There are lots of stand-along programs that do a great job, but there’s nothing that connects them to other services or housing placements.”
That, he said, is changing, as the county integrates all of its services into one database that tracks and links individuals and the services they receive.
Advocates said the state has not done enough to help.
“State funding needs to be increased,” Shahera Hyatt, director of the Homeless Youth Project. “It’s budget dust, it’s not enough money to really change course. It’s also oversight and accountability.”
Others echoed the call for greater accountability
“We feel like we’re not being listened to,” said Nova Monet, who became homeless when she was 14. “We have all these statistics and we know that there’s a problem, but nobody’s taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken.”
Advocates also called for a state office dedicated to homelessness and some advocated for a specific office of youth homelessness in the hopes of coordinating efforts and providing some sort of universal standards for services.
“Fifty percent of chronically homeless people had their first homeless experience when they were youth,” said said Sherilyn Adams of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco. “You want to stop chronic homelessness? Solve youth homelessness.”
James Ayala, a children’s social worker, takes calls to the Child Protection Hotline at the Metro North office of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services on Friday afternoon, April 8, 2016.; Credit: Maya Sugarman/KPCCRina Palta
Los Angeles County is expanding a foster care pilot that targets homeless parents and families in unstable housing.
The program provides short-term housing help to parents who could be reunited with their children, but for lack of a home. It also provides housing assistance to parents whose children are at high risk for removal.
Lack of housing is a growing issue for families involved in the child welfare system, said Ed Fithyan, division chief at the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services.
“Housing in L.A. is very difficult and people are stretched thin, especially the families we work with who are struggling often with other factors,” he said.
The problem is statewide. In a letter to state legislators, a group of organizations, including the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Californians for Safety and Justice, and Housing California, advocates said roughly 30 percent of children in foster care in California cannot be reunited with their parents because the family “lacks safe, stable housing.”
“Housing remains one of the largest barriers to reunification,” they wrote.
In response, the state authorized $10 million worth of “Bringing Family Home” grants to start and expand housing programs for such families, with about $2.5 million of that now headed to Los Angeles County.
The county has also invested its own resources in its housing program, planning on spending over $9 million to housing for family reunification over the next three years.
L.A.’s program officially got up and running in a pilot phase three years ago, but it’s now poised to expand, under the county’s comprehensive Homeless Initiative. DCFS plans to offer housing assistance to 200 families in the next year and 400 the year after.
The additional funds from the state will allow DCFS to also provide assistance to 390 families who are still together, but live in unsafe or unstable housing.
“We want to keep those children, hopefully, home with their parents, so we can house the parent and stabilize the families,” Fithyan said.
The grant kicks in January 1, 2018.
The Antelope Valley’s only homeless shelter is shutting its doors. By Doug Smith. LA Times, Aug 4th, 2017.
Adam Mandolph, 46, outside the only homeless shelter in the Antelope Valley, the Lancaster Community Shelter, which is set to close Sunday because of financial problems. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The rationing system at the Lancaster Community Shelter worked on a simple principle: priority to those who slept on the street the night before.
They lined up on the right. Everyone who had a bed the night before lined up on the left and got a raffle ticket. When the doors opened around 4 p.m. the right line went in first. Then those on the left were called by number until the shelter was full. Usually about a dozen were turned away.
“You come here at 3 o’clock,” said Adam Mandolph, who stood in the left line one afternoon last week. “The anxiety goes up. Will the little blue paper with your number on it come up?”
Mandolph’s number didn’t come up. The former music producer, 46, began what he called the long walk down Yucca Avenue, a quarter-mile hike to the city’s charming main street, where he would spend the night.
“I have hours of just walking tonight,” Mandolph said. He said he’s afraid of being attacked while he sleeps.
Starting Monday, there will be no reason for Mandolph to come back at all. There will be no line and no lottery. The operators of Antelope Valley’s only drop-in homeless shelter abruptly announced late last month that after struggling with red ink fo years, they are closing their doors.
The move by Grace Resources, a nonprofit organization that also operates a food bank, educational programs and a thrift store, has set off soul-searching among Antelope Valley officials amid a frantic effort to find other accommodations for the occupants of the 108-bed shelter. //www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lancaster-shelter-closure-20170803-story.html
OCLA Founder/President Denise McCain-Tharnstrom was invited for the second year in a row to present at the annual 40 to None Conference. Held on October 2-4th, 2017, in Philadelphia, this conference focuses on ending homelessness among LGBT and other youth. This year her talk focused on the power of mobile applications like WIN to serve not only youth and adults experiencing homelessness (or severe resource insecurity) but service providers and communities seeking to combat homelessness as well.
In today’s world, no one locates the services they need using a public phone booth! Everyone uses a cell phone- and homeless and severely resource-insecure individuals are no different. After all, the government provides free cell phones to extremely low/no income folks and even without a cell plan, free Wi-Fi is available in libraries and coffee shops across all cities. With 77% of adults owning a smart phone and virtually everyone regularly accessing a computer, a well-developed mobile directory service makes good sense.
Launched in 2015 Our Community LA’s WIN (What I Need) mobile app leverages people’s trust in technology and empowers folks dealing with tough times to find the services they need. Developed with the input of dozens of Los Angeles youth experiencing homelessness, the easy to use WIN app’s look, feel, contents, name and the logo reflect user recommendations. Today WIN connects youth and adults to over 1800 programs in 12 categories of need ranging from essentials such as food, shelter, showers, laundry and haircuts to education and job skills building needed to regain a dignified place in the community. WIN is currently being used in Los Angeles but can easily be brought to other communities.
Dr. McCain announced that WIN is not only getting “a facelift” but that it soon will offer many many new features. WIN’s new release in 2018 will simplify access to supportive services such as shelter beds available, push community & provider announcements to users, and offer 24/7 call lines to users in crisis or who simply want to chat with someone. The new and improved WIN will also offer support for providers and communities with the collection of smart data that maintains strict user privacy while documenting service gaps and other regional needs. She also discussed OCLA’s promotion of a national dialogue around best practices and the need to develop common data metrics.
Homelessness and severe resource insecurity are among the thorniest challenges facing many communities. WIN’s mobile technology empowers users and their communities to connect to different systems and work together more efficiently to protect youth, families and adults in need. The challenge ahead is to get government, philanthropy and others to understand the important role mobile technology can play in empowering folks in need to reach out and access the services available to help them avoid or leave homelessness.
We all have opportunities every day to change the world, but it is even more rewarding to work in concert with others as we give of our time/money to help our world. On Sat Oct 28th we are challenged to bring change to our communities and we challenge you to give our Homeless and Resource-Insecure Neighbors a hand up. ————On Make A Difference Day, please DONATE to support the WIN App — Your support will Help WIN offer youth and adults in need an easy to use way to find the help they need. —————And if you can do more than donate to WIN, please consider also volunteering at a local shelter or food bank. You can change someone’s world!
Get excited! A New WIN will go into beta in mid-October featuring a new dashboard, announcements feature, faster searches, access to over 1800 programs for youth and adults, new I Need Help Call lines, new Helpful Info, and new listings such as programs for reentering/probation youth/adults, free bathrooms, expanded listings for substance abuse and so much more! Check back soon for launch date!
LA County Schools who report a 25% increase in students experiencing homelessness between 2011-2016. (LACOE 2016) This represents a crisis for underfunded schools. Kids suffering from homelessness, are nine times more likely to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out, and three times more likely to be placed in special education programs. Compared with students who are merely low-income, homeless students suffer from higher rates of health and mental health problems, and lower graduation rates. Bottom line: Homeless students are rarely “just” homeless. They experience trauma, loss, instability, and are uniquely vulnerable. (Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, 2017)
L.A. County Board of Supervisors dismisses head of housing agency amidst massive effort to tackle homelessness.; Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesRina Palta
Los Angeles County will be looking for a new leader of its low-income housing programs.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to dismiss Sean Rogan in a closed meeting Tuesday. Rogan has served as head of the Housing Authority of the County of L.A. and the county’s Community Development Commission since 2009.
Members of the board, as well as the county’s Chief Executive Office, declined to comment on what they said was a confidential personnel matter.
The move comes at a critical time for the county, which is just beginning its most comprehensive effort to date to tackle homelessness. Measure H, a sales tax hike that kicked in October 1, is expected to provide up to $355 million a year for homeless services in L.A. County.
That voter-approved funding also came with ambitious promises to get 45,000 people off the streets and prevent another 30,000 from becoming homeless in the next five years.
The agencies formerly headed by Rogan are critical to that effort.
The housing authority runs the county’s public housing properties as well as the Section 8 rental assistance program. Section 8, particularly, plays a role in L.A.’s Homeless Initiative, as it is one of the primary sources of rental payments for formerly homeless housed in permanent supportive housing developments.
The Community Development Commission administers the county’s Community Development Block Grant, which goes to things like neighborhood improvement, meals programs for seniors, and some homeless programs.
Rogan’s dismissal also comes at a time when local housing agencies are anticipating potential cuts in federal funding, which pay for public housing improvements, the Section 8 program, and the Community Development Block Grant.
The Board of Supervisors has not yet said when they’ll appoint a replacement for Rogan.