It should come as no surprise to anyone who has walked the streets of Los Angeles recently that rising homelessness remains a massive issue in the community. Homelessness has gone up up by 16% in the city over the last year, and by 12% in the county. Mayor Eric Garcetti alongside other community leaders announced several initiatives on Wednesday to help combat this crisis.
Among the programs announced at the Unified Homelessness Response Center is a partnership with UCLA Health to bring medical care directly to the streets. Doctors will visit homeless encampments to provide vaccinations and referrals to health clinics that can dispense medication.
“[In] the old days it was led by police…we’ve changed that,” Garcetti said. “We believe this can be a game changer.”
Additionally, the city announced an expansion of so-called ‘safe parking sites’ beginning in January, where those who live in their vehicles can park during the night and receive housing services, case management, access to hygienic services and more. But temporary housing is only part of the solution.
“There are 149 permanent supportive housing projects open in the pipeline and/or under construction,” Garcetti said. “Together we’re going to add over 11,500 bedrooms that didn’t exist, over 7,000 are supportive housing for the formerly homeless.”
Garcetti also announced that each one of the city council’s 15 districts has committed to building at least one housing project funded in part through HHH, a $1.2 billion initiative passed in October.
Officials also expressed concern over the growing student homeless population in the city. Current estimates of the total homeless student population in Los Angeles are around 17,000; however, LA Unified School District Superintendent Austin Buehtner said he thinks that number is extremely conservative.
“If you think of those who live in fear, those who are intimidated by threats of ICE raids, it’s probably close to double that number,” Buehtner said.
“Schools are not funded for this. We get all of our funding through the state,” he continued. “We receive zero dollars to address or provide extra help for those 17,000 students and their families who need help. We can do more if we have the funding to do the job.”
In keeping with that, the Mayor announced an expansion of a school voucher program that had been piloted at Telfair Elementary in the San Fernando Valley, where a quarter of the students had been documented to have experienced homelessness within the past year.
“We started with 50 vouchers for families with vulnerable children who need the most help, and today we’re proud to announce we’re expanding the program tenfold to take to other areas of Los Angeles for many other families who are experiencing housing insecurity,” Garcetti said.
However, a setback occurred on Monday when Peter Lynn, the former head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, abruptly announced his resignation on Monday after five years in the role.
If you want to get involved yourself, go to volunteer.lamayor.org to see what organizations are making a difference.