Improving Access to Permanent Housing and Supportive Services for People Experiencing Homelessness in Los Angeles County
Dorothy Edwards is a CSH Speak Up! advocate alumni and member of the CSH national board of directors. The CSH Speak Up! program trains supportive housing residents to become community leaders and advocates in the fight to end chronic homelessness.
The Challenge and Context: Addressing Systemic Barriers in LA County That Lead to Chronic Homelessness
We believe that homelessness can and should be rare, brief and non-reoccurring, and Los Angeles County can thrive economically, socially and culturally. We know safe and stable housing leads to improved life outcomes, including social, emotional and economic well-being. Everyone deserves a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in and the security and self-esteem resulting from a consistent place to call home.
Research shows that housing stability can improve a person’s employment stability, increasing their outlook for optimal health and economic opportunity. Housing is so profoundly important to children’s lives that it plays a central role in their health, well-being, academic achievement and long-term financial success.
On any given night in Los Angeles County, an estimated 63,000 people are not housed. This data comes from the annual Point in Time (PIT) count conducted by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority. Unaffordable housing, income inequality and racial inequity are drivers of housing instability and homelessness. For Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQI+ people, long-standing structural and systemic inequities in wages, housing, the criminal justice system and access to mental and physical health supports exacerbate barriers to housing accessibility, affordability and availability.
“On top of high rents and a shortage of affordable housing, the Los Angles Homeless Services Authority points to stagnant wages and systemic racism that affect housing, health care, justice and economic policies as major contributors to the crisis. The agency reports that Black people make up only 8% of the total population but 34% of people experiencing homelessness in LA County.”– NPR
The region faces a significant shortage of affordable housing. To meet the current need, Los Angeles County must build more than 500,000 affordable housing units, while also preserving the affordable housing that already exists. Many people experience homelessness because of challenges related to access to services, provider capacity and a lack of government programs that serve individuals’ unique needs.
Once a person experiences homelessness, they are introduced to complex systems and often have limited access to social services and high-quality healthcare, a greater risk of violence and constant exhaustion and stress. The longer a person remains homeless, the greater their risk of facing these challenges. Systemic inequities, exacerbated by COVID-19, are pushing numbers of people experiencing homelessness in the wrong direction, affecting individual health and well-being and the economic viability of the city and county.
Addressing homelessness in Los Angeles requires looking beyond direct programs and services. We must address the economic and systemic barriers that drive people from home to street in the first place. Government housing, health and human service policies designed to help people may inadvertently prevent access due to their complexity and lack of integrated supports. Solutions to help people are much more effective when they begin with a human-centered perspective. Putting the individual first and centering the voices of people with lived expertise in the development of solutions increases the likelihood of successfully supporting their needs.
No one entity can end homelessness, but through aligned, coordinated efforts among private philanthropy and public funds and services, we can work together to more effectively put resources where they can have the most impact.
David credits his young daughter with motivating him to regain stable housing. What mattered most to him was having a welcoming place for her to visit. Brilliant Corners worked with him to help him navigate the process and connect him to the support services he needs to thrive. Now he’s created the safe space that he’s always wanted for him and his daughter.
Photo courtesy of Brilliant Corners.
*Last name withheld for privacy
What We Do: Prevent Chronic Homelessness and Secure Housing in Los Angeles County
Since 1990, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has worked with community advocates, nonprofits, city, county, state, other foundations and the private sector to identify solutions to chronic homelessness. We know that Housing First and harm reduction are proven best practices when it comes to ending homelessness.
Our Current Focus
- Prioritize populations at the greatest risk of long-term homelessness
- Emphasize permanent housing and services
- Make systems and services people-centered
- Share best practices and lessons learned with other cities
Permanent solutions are achievable.
Our approach works to reduce inequity, making both short-term and permanent housing easy to access, affordable and built for individuals’ specific needs as they experience homelessness. We advocate for fair policies and systems to keep people of any race, age or sexual orientation housed, supported and on the path to social and economic stability and improved health.
We support systems change and programs that serve and prioritize people at the highest risk before they experience homelessness, working to eliminate the underlying systemic inequities and racial disparities that many Angelenos face in securing housing.
Based on community input and guidance, we:
- Work to develop solutions that meet people’s individual needs and recognize that different people require and want different housing solutions and services.
- Partner with others on housing affordability, the integration of housing-related systems and early interventions that prevent people who are most at risk from experiencing homelessness.
- Address the effects of inequity that make experiencing homelessness more likely for BIPOC, LGBTQI+ people, older adults, and youth from underinvested communities.
- Educate and support advocacy for state and national policies and increased public funding to expand opportunities for a range of short-term and permanent housing in Los Angeles County.
- Fund efforts to improve data quality, quantity, sharing and use for informed decision-making.
For Mario, there’s no better feeling than having a place of his own. After experiencing homelessness, he was referred to Brilliant Corners, where his housing coordinator worked with him to move into a one-bedroom apartment. He relishes the opportunity to be alone, have control over his own space and design it to his liking. Mario’s name is on the lease and the property manager raves about him as an ideal tenant.
Photo courtesy of Brilliant Corners.
*Last name withheld for privacy
The Impact of the Work: An Improved System That Is Person Centered
Forging a human-centered approach that is easy to access will require active partnerships among private- and public-sector players. With an improved system, we can deliver a reliable two-pronged approach—addressing both housing and services—that identifies and serves people before they fall into homelessness and supports those with both interim and permanent housing needs.
We cultivate long-term projects and partner with organizations whose efforts are aligned with our program strategies. This proactive approach helps us maximize effectiveness and impact. The Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals.
RESOURCE Home for Good: Powered by United Way
The Home for Good story is rooted in an understanding that it will take a unified, collective effort—of every individual, community and organization—and an unwavering commitment to our values to end homelessness in LA County.
RESOURCE Funders Together to End Homelessness
Funders Together to End Homelessness provides critical resources, learning and networking opportunities to our members to increase their knowledge, capacity and effectiveness in their individual and collective work to prevent and end homelessness.
Resource City of Los Angeles
The City of Los Angeles’ Homelessness Strategy Report lays the foundation for a regional approach to addressing this chronic issue.
Resource County of Los Angeles
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan that represents the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by the county to combat homelessness.