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WIN What I Need Mobile app now serves SENIORS!

January 18, 2021
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The WIN app has added services unique to struggling Seniors. Seniors can now search WIN and will see Senior Services marked with the Senior Only Icon. Homeless and Resource-insecure Seniors over age 55 often need “easy to find” information to access much needed supportive services. Seniors are also uniquely isolated and never more so that during the COVID pandemic. WIN has responded to meet this need by expanding to include Free Senior Resources. The Senior Resources are marked with a unique Senior-Only Icon to make it as easy as possible for Seniors to find Food, Transportation and other supportive services!

Senior Only Icon

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Technology, Social Justice, Information Access & WIN

January 17, 2021
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A powerful social equity tool, the WIN What I Need mobile app breaks information barriers that too often restrict underserved populations from learning about and accessing helpful services. Trusted access to information and services is the first step out of poverty. Cell phones and mobile app’s meet a direct service need of the homeless- access to essential information about supportive services.

Technology, Social Justice & Information Access: Meeting A Direct Service Need of LA’s Homeless & Resource Insecure Populations

by: Dr. Denise McCain-Tharnstrom, Founder OCLA

Mobile technology is the cornerstone of modern communication and information access. Virtually everyone trusts it, grandmothers use computers and cell phones are everywhere.  But in an odd paradox, technology access is often seen as a luxury or status item.  This mindset too often leads well-meaning folks to wonder suspiciously whether a poor or homeless person in possession of a cell phone needs or deserves free supportive services. Dismissing the possibility that a person may be in genuine need to supportive services merely because they have a smart device discounts the ability of mobile technology to offer innovative tools designed to support pathways out of poverty.

A smart phone in hand can offer the opportunity for human connectivity as well as a sense of security. Recognizing the importance of communication and knowledge access, the federal lifeline program, begun under the Bush Administration, has been providing homeless and low-income individuals access to smart phones for over a decade.  Millennials consider cell phones a necessity- one study reported that homeless teens consider smart phones as important as food.  Today, the vast majority of the US’s homeless youth, families and adults under age 40 have smart phones. Researchers have found that over 90% of homeless and resource-insecure populations have access to mobile phones and regularly access the internet. Family heads of households and college students experiencing homelessness are even more likely to have a cell phone.

Social safety nets are often difficult to penetrate and understand in regions as large as LA County. Accessing the complex web of available services can be difficult to understand, especially for youth and adults who face structural barriers, are afraid to reveal their circumstances to outsiders or who are experiencing resource insecurity for the first time. People who are struggling to avoid homelessness or who are unsheltered, have a critical need for a trusted source of information about helpful services. In addition, service providers, outreach workers first responders and good neighbors often need access to readily available referral tools in order to offer support to a client, patient or fellow resident. It only makes sense to leverage trusted mobile technology to offer homeless and struggling individuals, families and others access to helpful information through a free mobile application like the WIN What I Need App.  

Committed to leveraging technology for good, OCLA developed and launched the WIN app in 2015 to connect youth to essential services. Designed and named with input from homeless youth ages 16-25 who attended drop-in centers around LA County, it sought to offer homeless youth access to a myriad of available resources. Within a year of launch however OCLA realized that WIN was failing to support important users including youth were pregnant or parenting, youth who were attached to at least one adult over the age of 24 and young adults who had aged  out of the youth system and require access to adult or family-based supportive programing. To meet these needs, a revised WIN was released in 2018 to support people in need of all ages while retaining its unique support of youth. (Youth services are uniquely marked in the app with a Youth Only Icon).

The user-friendly WIN app is free to download, free to use, and available for use 24/7.  Once downloaded, WIN is resident on a user’s phone and can be used to search for helpful services even when not connected to Wi-Fi Users without cellular services.  Users without access to a smart device can access the WIN app on OCLA’s website.

A social equity tool, WIN breaks information barriers that too often restrict underserved populations from learning about and accessing helpful services. It offers comprehensive information on more than 2,000 free services available in Los Angeles County including programs providing food, shelter, healthcare, legal aid, government benefits, job training, education support, hygiene support, drop-in/access centers, overnight parking, crisis support and more. Search results may be ordered by those closest to the user and provide detailed summaries of each provider’s services, as well as hotlinks to program e-mails, phone numbers, service addresses, directions, and agency websites. Uses can even narrow their search and look for agencies that offer special services for unique ages or genders or that serve veterans, youth, seniors, pregnant or parenting or re-entering individuals. For users who want to understand more about service types, WIN has a Helpful Information section inside every category page- this section offered both as text (to read) and in an audio file (for listening) which can be accessed via WIN’s text or audio files.

WIN is not only a search tool, it also sends notifications directly to users’ phones alerting them of important community announcements such as Community Resource Fairs, COVD Testing and Winter Shelter updates. It also features an “I Need Help Now” function that connects distressed users directly to emergency services.

Trusted access to information and services is the first step out of poverty. OCLA places a high value WIN users’ privacy and dignity and the WIN app was designed to respect a user’s ability to anonymously search for services. Users are never required to sign-in to use WIN. Users are not required to divulge personal or demographic information; users can download and use WIN anonymously. WIN does not utilize beacons or other tracking devices and cannot “follow” users to discover where they go after they have used WIN. Users can trust WIN to support them, not to “spy” on them.

The next time you see a destitute person with a cell phone, remind yourself that cell phones and mobile apps’s meet a direct service need of the homeless- access to essential information. about supportive services.   Apps like WIN are a 21st century “Hand Up”, enabling users to locate services that offer immediate improvement in security and quality of life as well as opportunities to build a life away from poverty

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New Name for OCLA. We are now OUR COMMUNITY LA!

January 17, 2021
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New Name– Same Mission! Our Children LA is now Our Community LA – Our new name better reflects the broad community we serve. When we first launched the WIN What I Need mobile app in 2015, Our Children LA served only homeless youth ages 12-25. Today WIN supports youth, families and adults (including seniors and veterans!) AND our new website is oclawin.org. Please bookmark it and visit us often!

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COVID Hits LA’s Homeless Population

January 17, 2021
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The homeless population is having its own alarming surge in COVID cases. And 60% of those cases are in shelters of all kinds — from vast emergency shelters to the smaller-scale ones created under L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s A Bridge Home program. Nowhere a homeless person goes is completely protected from the virus these days.

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Governor Newsom Issues Proclamation Declaring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 1.15.21

January 15, 2021
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SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today issued a proclamation declaring January 15, 2021, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the State of California. The text of the proclamation can be found here and a copy is below: ###

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How the Proposed 2021 California Budget Can Help People Experiencing Homelessness

January 14, 2021
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After the chaos and violence that ascended upon our nation’s capital last week, it may have been lost in the headlines that the leader of the 5th largest economy in the world unveiled a 2021-2022 budget proposal on Friday. While the announcement may have been overshadowed, the California state budget is more relevant than ever. This is the hopeful year of COVID-19 recovery and rebuilding, and it is critical to know what Governor Gavin Newsom’s priorities are for the Golden State – especially concerning homelessness and housing. Big questions loom: how will the state support schools re-opening, distribute vaccines quickly, prevent renters from being evicted, and get emergency assistance into the hands of hungry families?  And possibly the most important question for those of us focused on the crisis that predates the pandemic: what are the proposed resources for housing and homelessness?

Where Does the Money in California’s Budget Typically Go? 

It is with some relief alongside some extreme caution, that California leaders have a better-than-anticipated budget picture for 2021. A surplus this year is welcomed, but a multi-year deficit, possibly reaching $17 billion, is not too far behind.  Education, health and human services, transportation and corrections/rehabilitation are some of the broad categories that the state allocates most of its general fund dollars to maintain current programs.
Chart from: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2021-22/pdf/BudgetSummary/SummaryCharts.pdf

Immediate Action 

Perhaps the most eye-catching part of Newsom’s proposed budget is the $14 billion dollar investments he would like to make into California’s equitable recovery from COVID-19, with immediate action being requested from the legislature in the following areas:
Table from: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2021-22/pdf/BudgetSummary/SummaryCharts.pdf

Housing and Homelessness in the Budget 

While the most timely priorities are jumpstarting an economic recovery and safely reinstating in-person education here are a few highlights from the Governor’s budget summary that aim to support those households experiencing homelessness and very low-income Californians: Project Homekey: Last year, the state used a mix of federal, philanthropic, and state dollars to stand up an aggressive motel/hotel acquisition program that is projected to create 6000 new units of permanent and interim housing for COVID-vulnerable homeless Californians. The Governor is proposing $750 million additional dollars to continue the unprecedented success of Project Homekey this year. Housing for Very Vulnerable Populations: The budget proposal includes a one-time allocation of $1 billion for the acquisition and building of housing specifically for people who need behavioral health treatment settings and for low income vulnerable seniors. These could be short-term crisis care settings and long-term care environments often referred to as board and cares or adult residential facilities.  The disappearance of housing specifically for people with complex medical and mental health needs who can no longer live independently has been viewed as a growing crisis statewide. Protecting tenants at risk of eviction: To keep renters who were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis safely housed, the state passed AB 3088, which had provisions that prevented certain types of evictions until January 31, 2021. Due to the ongoing severity of the pandemic, both the governor and key state legislators are immediately calling for an extension of AB 3088. The state and its larger local governments are set to receive a total $2.6 billion of the $25 billion rental relief program administered by the Treasury Department, which could further stabilize at-risk renters. Affordable Housing Programs: Governor Newsom proposes new investments of $500 million in the state’s Infill Infrastructure Grant Program and an additional third round of $500 million in low-income housing tax credits to spur the development of affordable housing and reduce the massive gap in units available for qualifying low-income households. State leaders are also proposing streamlining measures that would make the application and environmental review process faster for these projects.

The Takeaway 

It is no easy task to balance the competing budget priorities of 2021 in a state faced with many urgent issues. The state of California has a lot to juggle, and while housing and homelessness funds are not topping the list of “immediate action” priorities, Governor Newsom has asked the legislature to take early action on Project Homekey. This urgency, combined with the above investments, shows promising steps for the future. One thing is certain – the cure for our housing and homelessness crisis needs to be viewed as a long game: creating reliable, ongoing funding streams, and long-term plans that can be nimble, but still lay out a solution blueprint for the future. Governor Newsom’s 2021 budget proposal embraces the importance of building out physical homes for people to live that can become long-term features of homeless re-housing systems across California. It also confronts the long-neglected issues of licensed care settings that serve highly vulnerable groups who may have been homeless or could easily fall back onto the streets without these intensive interventions. However, the proposed budget continues to default to one-time grants instead of sustained funding that is more comprehensive.  It also includes households loosely defined as “at-risk of homelessness” without targeting the response to people most at risk: those who are already homeless. The Alliance is hopeful that a bridge can be built between the current short-term plans to movements like the Bring California Home Campaign and Roadmap HOME 2030, which together, lay out a bold longer-term plan that would transform the state’s response to housing and homelessness. The time is now. If not now, when? The post How the Proposed 2021 California Budget Can Help People Experiencing Homelessness appeared first on National Alliance to End Homelessness. Continue Reading

California’s 2021 State Budget and Homelessness

January 8, 2021
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SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today submitted his 2021-22 State Budget proposal to the Legislature – a $227.2 billion fiscal blueprint that provides funding for immediate COVID-19 response and relief efforts where Californians need it most while making investments for an equitable, inclusive and broad-based economic recovery.

With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, the Governor’s Budget prioritizes key actions that will urgently help the California families and businesses impacted most.

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Homelessness in 2021: Five Factors to Watch

December 29, 2020
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As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness will continue to be a national crisis. Although the number of people experiencing homelessness is still lower than it was in 2007, homelessness has been increasing since 2016. It is likely that the consequences of the pandemic, a national recession, and deep economic disparities will drive further increases. Despite these obstacles, there will be important opportunities in the year ahead for the mission to end homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness offers the following assessment of the key factors that will affect this work.
  1. What Will We Learn from the COVID-19 Pandemic? COVID-19 forced communities to confront new limitations and innovate through them to keep people safe. Those innovations were all driven by an obvious truth that housing is the basis for health. The question moving forward is whether federal and local leaders will translate that connection into resources and policies to end homelessness. Moreover, as we consider the enormous challenges to shelter systems during the pandemic, it is unclear whether elected officials and systems leaders will re-think their historic reliance on congregate shelter, which was proven to be unsafe and unscalable during the pandemic.
  2. Will the Federal Government Prioritize Homelessness? The Biden Administration and Congress will have immediate opportunities to prioritize homelessness and housing in 2021. This includes appointing key Cabinet officials who are dedicated to evidence-based and equity-based approaches to ending homelessness, including Housing First. It includes advancing a FY 2021 Federal budget that dramatically scales up investments in the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. This will be crucial as states and localities deal with lost revenue and diminished budgets following the pandemic. And it includes the Biden Administration’s campaign goal to expand the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) so that more people can afford housing.
  3. How Will the Housing Market Respond? The pandemic has made it obvious that many Americans simply cannot afford the cost of rent. If the rental market continues to soften – especially in higher-cost communities – more people will have access to the units they need, and the flow of people falling into homelessness can more easily be reduced. This will also enhance homelessness system efforts to place people into housing. However, if rents revert to pre-COVID levels in the midst of widespread unemployment and recession, homelessness will not decline. Additionally, the future of commercial real estate represents a major area of uncertainty. If vacant offices, retail spaces, and hotels and motels, can be converted into affordable housing, communities will have a dramatically renewed capacity to end people’s homelessness.
  4. Will the Nation Address Inequity? Awareness of racial and economic inequity made it to the forefront of the American consciousness in 2020. It remains to be seen whether the nation will extend this awareness to housing and homelessness. This would require leaders to address historic injustices and reverse discriminatory housing policies. Meanwhile, systems leaders and providers must continue to identify and address inequitable policies and outcomes in their own work. Although racial disparities have been at the center of this discussion to date, it will be essential that these efforts extend to disparities among other populations at increased risk of homelessness. This includes gender minorities, people with disabilities, and returning citizens.
  5. Can We Target Emerging “Age Waves”? Demographic data shows that homelessness is on the rise among two distinct age groups: people who are very old, and people who are relatively young. Efforts to serve these groups will depend upon the ability to define and fund targeted strategies for each. Older individuals experiencing homelessness not only face dramatically higher health vulnerabilities, but also will amass especially high health care costs associated with their homelessness. Meanwhile, younger people experiencing homelessness must be connected to housing and employment now, despite the economic recession. Without these connections, their likelihood of prolonged detachment from the workforce will directly impact their risk of homelessness over the long term.
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Politics Chat: Two Unemployment Benefits Expired, With More To Follow

December 27, 2020
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Mara Liasson | NPR
With another COVID-19 relief bill awaiting his signature or veto, what's President Trump's end game? A new Congress begins Jan. 3, a new president in 24 days, and millions of Americans are struggling. Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org. This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at SCPR.org. Continue Reading

Homelessness and Suicide by Hanging

August 25, 2020
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Homeless people in L.A. increasingly are taking their lives by hanging

Gale Holland,LA TimesAugust 6, 2020

He was a talented skateboarder on the verge of landing a company sponsorship. Dressed in loud Hawaiian shirts or tracksuits, his shock of hair untamed, skater style, Jacob Glory Russaw practiced ollies and kick flips for hours at the Venice and North Hollywood skate parks or in the streets of East Hollywood. Then he made up his own tricks.

“Skating is my life,” the 20-year-old wrote on his Instagram page. “It’s like breathing it makes me feel like I can do something [in] life.”

But Russaw was also struggling. He was young and Black and living at a homeless housing agency, working his way out of a fractured upbringing. And he had lost his room there, something that even some of his skater friends didn’t realize.

They learned only after he had died by hanging.

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