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New county-wide committee to take on homeless issue


A regional oversight body

Hoping to foster more regional oversight of homelessness programs, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed this week to create an Executive Committee of elected officials from across the Southland to coordinate county and local efforts to tackle the problem.

“This has been a long time in the making, and in order for it to work, we all have to work together,” according to Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who introduced the motion with Supervisor Hilda Solis.

The creation of a regional oversight body was one of the recommendations offered two years ago by a county Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, which called for an “executive-level action team” encompassing leaders from the county and its 88 cities, along with state input, to better coordinate homeless programs regionally.

Under the board's action Tuesday, the new Executive Committee will include two members of the Board of Supervisors, the mayor of Los Angeles, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, four mayors or city council members from cities in the county, and a representative chosen by the governor.

That committee will in turn oversee a “Leadership Table,” which will act as an “advisory body” to the committee. The Leadership Table will also leverage private funding sources for homelessness programs. That group will include Los Angeles city and county department heads, business leaders, service providers, educators and representatives of sectors including labor, public housing, veterans, the faith community and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Also included in the Leadership Table will be the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which has long served as a quasi city-county entity designed to oversee regional homeless-prevention efforts. The authority has been under fire in recent years over the region's continued struggles with homelessness.

Barger stressed that the Executive Committee is not envisioned as a replacement for LAHSA, but will work in coordination with that organization. Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who sits on the LAHSA commission, said the new committee will “complement” the work of that body. But the motion also calls for the county to work with the city to discuss changes to the authority's governance structure and analyze its funding sources.

Solis said the new panel–by expanding beyond LAHSA's representation of Los Angeles city and county–will better incorporate efforts in all other cities and communities in the county.

“Unfortunately, our existing homelessness governance structure does not give local cities a voice in how we address this emergency,” Solis said in a statement after the vote. “That is why we need to move forward with the Executive Committee this motion proposes, as it will bring all 88 cities together with the county of Los Angeles to break long-existing silos. Through this effort, we can come up with strategies, set tangible goals, and hold the system accountable to getting results for our residents. This Executive Committee has the potential to bring the region together and chart a new path forward.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn initially hesitated about moving forward with the idea, lamenting the idea of creating yet another committee to discuss homelessness.

“I don't want the public to think that we hav     en't made huge strides, in my opinion, of coordinating, working together,” Hahn said. She ultimately voted in favor of the effort, which was approved on a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Holly Mitchell absent.

The most recent homelessness count coordinated by LAHSA found a 9% year-over-year increase in homelessness in the county, and a 10% jump in the city. According to the results of the point-in-time count conducted in January, there were 75,518 people experiencing homelessness in the county, and 46,260 in the city of Los Angeles.

That's up from 69,144 in the county last year. The figures continued a steady climb in the number of Southland homeless people over the past five years. In 2018, there were 52,765 homeless counted in the county.