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Board approves massive budget to battle ongoing homelessness


The Board of Supervisors has  approved $527.1 million in funding for strategies to battle homelessness in fiscal year 2021-22, while expressing frustration over the rising numbers of people living on the street.

Despite the massive inflow of cash from Measure H and dozens of carefully crafted initiatives that make up the county’s Homeless Initiative, visible encampments continue to grow and the situation on the street remains dire.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger highlighted one sobering statistic, noting that 739 homeless people died in Los Angeles County in the first six months of 2021.

“This is a life-or-death situation, and it should encourage us to act with urgency and a new sense of direction,” Barger said.

Efforts to count the homeless have been stymied by the pandemic and lockdown orders, but residents are growing increasingly vocal about massive encampments encroaching on public spaces countywide.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said she was worried about residents and other jurisdictions losing patience.

“I am particularly concerned that more and more cities are moving to enforce their anti-camping laws, and there are more calls to criminalize our homeless,” Hahn told her colleagues, noting the efforts of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

Barger said the proposal did not go far enough and called for a complete overhaul.

“I believe (LAHSA) is broken, and I believe we need to seriously reconsider the structure of this agency,” Barger said, “Putting a Band-Aid on something that needs major surgery is a disservice.”

Since Measure H revenue became available in July 2017, the county’s homeless services system has placed nearly 67,000 people in permanent housing and nearly 90,000 people in interim housing, though there is some double-counting of people who move from interim to permanent housing.

Highlights of the nearly half-billion dollars in spending approved include:

— $150 million for 5,441 interim housing beds, including emergency shelter beds as well as various types of bridge housing with services geared toward specific needs;

— $132 million for permanent supportive housing, which lifts people out of chronic homelessness and provides them with a rental subsidy and intensive case management services;

— $89 million for rapid rehousing, which enables clients to quickly exit homelessness by helping them pay rent and provides them with supportive services for a limited period;