Addressing Homelessness in the West Valley
Message from Councilmember Bob Blumenfield
We must strive to keep using creative solutions until every person in Los Angeles is off the street and on a productive path forward. Though the West Valley has the least amount of homeless people compared to the rest of the City, our community continues to face serious humanitarian and quality of life issues.
I share the frustrations I hear from many of my constituents that change isn’t happening fast enough as we see freeway underpasses become makeshift shelters and RV’s lining up on commercial corridors. Thousands of people living on our streets is unconscionable and should never be ‘normalized.’ I am saddened by the many broken lives, angered by the blight that plagues our community and ashamed about what this teaches our children about society. It’s unacceptable, and we have to do more to end homelessness in our City.
My staff and I spend more time dealing with homelessness than any other single issue. I will continue to work proactively, and constitutionally, to curb homelessness locally within the powers of my office, as well as by partnering with the County and State on a number of efforts.
This page is a glimpse into the efforts I have spearheaded to address homelessness locally, as well as the long and short term strategies I have been able to help lead throughout our City. From building more permanent supportive housing, to job assistance, to making sure the County gets the resources it needs to help the drug addicted and mentality ill, much more work needs to be done for both short and long term solutions, and I remain committed to tackling the crisis.
Local Efforts in the West Valley
Team Blumenfield and the LAHSA Homeless Count
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) conducts an annual homeless count, with Councilmember Blumenfield and his staff leading the effort in the West Valley for the past few years. In 2018 LAHSA’s results concluded there was an 5% decrease in the number of homeless citywide, the first time in four years there was a decrease, as well as a decrease of 3% in the 3rd Council District. Team Blumenfield will continue to help lead this effort and ensure that LAHSA has the most up to date numbers on the homelessness issue in the West Valley.
Below: Please check out this video to learn more about the LAHSA Homeless Count.
Key Findings of the 2018 LASHA Count
There are over 50,000 people in the County of Los Angeles, including 31,516 in the City, who are homeless. Though there was a decrease over the last year, Councilmember Blumenfield knows that this is simply unacceptable. Below is a more detailed breakdowns of LAHSA’s findings.
In the City of Los Angeles:
- Of the 31,516 homeless people, 67% are men (16,682) and 30% are female (9,600).
- Almost 40% are either victims of domestic violence or are homeless due to fleeing a domestic/intimate partner.
- 17% have a substance abuse disorder and almost 30% have a serious mental illness.
- 7% are veterans (an 18% decrease from last year).
- 10% are over the age of 62 (a 26% increase from last year).
In Council District 3:
- There are 608 homeless people in CD 3.
- Almost 50% are either victims of domestic violence or are homeless due to fleeing a domestic/intimate partner.
- 11% have a substance abuse disorder and almost 30% have a serious mental illness.
- 3% are veterans (a 46% decrease from last year).
- 10% are over the age of 62 (about 60 individuals).
To look further into the LAHSA results, please go to www.LAHSA.org
Bridge Housing in the West Valley
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and the Los Angeles City Council recently approved funding for a new Bridge Housing site in the West Valley. In partnership with County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, this property in Canoga Park will be the first long-term ‘A Bridge Home’ site in the City.
The property, located at 7621 Canoga Avenue, had been privately owned, but used to serve as a County mental health facility. Under the plan outlined by Blumenfield and Kuehl, the City will allocate a conditional grant of $4.3 million to the County to purchase the property, then the County will renovate it and provide no less than fifteen years of Bridge Housing services for homeless people.
Unlike a emergency shelter where the clients must leave in the morning and return at night, Bridge Housing enables clients to actually live on site and receive wrap around services until they can transition to a permanent home. It has proven to be a much more successful model with less impact on the neighboring community.
According to the 2018 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Count, there were over 31,000 homeless people in the City of Los Angeles, 607 of whom were in Blumenfield’s district.
“Though we have the lowest homeless population compared to other council districts, we still have a serious humanitarian and quality of life crisis in our community,” Blumenfield stated. “Homelessness continues to be the most pressing issue facing our City and I am proud that today we are taking this important step to address this emergency in the West Valley.”
Though this site will be a ‘permanent’ Bridge Housing facility, it will provide homeless people with ‘temporary’ and transitional housing, just like other bridge housing sites opening up around the city. This site will provide housing for no less than 70 people at any given time. Having this site will unlock additional police presence in the vicinity and will enable enhanced enforcement as well.
Below: the exterior of the Bridge Housing site in Canoga Park.
Hosting ‘Homeless Connect Days’ Throughout the West Valley
Blumenfield at his Homeless Connect Day in Woodland Hills in 2017
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, his staff and local service providers regularly help homeless individuals and families in the West San Fernando Valley via "Homeless Connect" days. Blumenfield has hosted many of these events, bringing hundreds of homeless people directly to services such as Los Angeles Family Housing, addiction intervention, haircuts and job assistance, helping them get off the streets
“These events bring together the people who need help with the organizations that can provide shelter, food, legal assistance, addiction services and more,” said Blumenfield. “While we can't force people to take services, Homeless Connect days help encourage people to accept help that is offered locally.”
New Innovative Program to Get Mentally Ill and Drug Addicted Homeless People the Help They Need
Councilmember Blumenfield recently helped launched an important new program that is already helping drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless people who are on the streets of the West Valley get treatment and turn their lives around. The program establishes an innovative partnership between Providence Health & Services, California and the Tarzana Treatment Centers.
Blumenfield said, “I regularly hear from constituents who are very concerned about homeless people they see with obvious mental health or drug issues. Too often we see people screaming at the sky, blatantly using drugs, or worse. This impacts our community quality of life and it is simply not acceptable. What message does it send to our children that we allow this to happen? While it has sadly become a part of everyday life in Los Angeles, we cannot normalize it, and we cannot stop trying to change it.”
It is not illegal to be homeless and we can’t force people into services even if they are readily available and in front of them. The Courts and Constitution have made that clear. Also, while law enforcement will arrest people when they are in the act of committing a crime or being an apparent danger to themselves or others, they cannot arrest someone who is simply drug addicted or mentally ill; we need to create a better avenue to get folks with severe mental or drug problems off the street and into services. Arresting our way out of this wouldn’t do anything about the underlying mental health and substance abuse issues. With finite resources as a City and with the reality that most human services falls under the purview of the County and not the City, it is imperative that we get creative about new funding sources so that is why he was happy to help create a unique public-private healthcare program like this.
Now, Providence Tarzana and Burbank have trained patient navigators in their ER’s ready to connect with homeless people who enter their facilities at rock bottom. Sometimes this is the only time they are open to accepting services. This program offers first rate treatment combined with transitional housing. Once they have achieved some stability, we can connect them with jobs and permanent housing. Even when folks enter the ER for an overdose they still might not enter treatment, but in the first month of operation we have seen success.
This isn’t going to alleviate homelessness overnight, but every person who says yes to this help, is another person whose life will be turned around and off our streets. And, unlike most programs that are targeted towards people who are seeking help, this program is targeted to those who are often the most service resistant and the most difficult to get off the streets.
Changing the Definition of “Gravely Disabled” to Help Get People Off the Streets
Councilmember Blumenfield proudly supports both AB 1987 in Sacramento and the County’s measure to change the criteria by which local municipalities can help homeless individuals who desperately need medical and mental health care. With homeless deaths on the rise (458 in 2013 compared to 831 homeless people died in 2017) and with 30% of people living on the streets with serious mental disorders, Cities have not been able to help those most vulnerable because of outdated laws.
By broadening the definition of “gravely disabled,” City and County law enforcement would be able to hold people with debilitating mental illness on psychiatric holds if a court agrees someone is neglecting their health due to their mental disorder.
This would help ensure that people with mental illness are off the street and getting the help they desperately need.
Embracing Safe ParkingLA
Safe ParkingLA is a new public/private partnership that utilizes parking lots across the City for overnight parking for people living in their vehicles. From about the hours of 9pm to 6am, people who just need a safe place to sleep are able to sleep in a lot with the safety of a security guard and restroom, and leave before the start of the day. Safe ParkingLA vets each person who enters the program and, as a condition, helps them with services such as housing assistance and job training. Only 5 to 10 spots per lot that are being used for this program.
Currently there are several lots up and running including one at a parish in Koreatown and one at the VA in West Los Angeles, with several more to be rolled out soon across Los Angeles. Blumenfield has a motion to create a buffer zone around these Safe Parking lots where “No Dwelling” in one’s vehicle can be enforced. This will help incentivize more Safe Parking lots.
Recently Blumenfield and Councilmember Joe Buscaino visited the site in Koreatown to assess impacts on the surrounding community, hear from a few parishioners who wanted to be a part of the solution as well as meet some of the homeless people who are taking advantage of this program. Learn more about their visit here.
Cleaning Up RVs
In July 2017, Councilmember Blumenfield introduced a motion to instruct City departments to find new ways to provide waste pumping for RVs occupied by homeless people and for RVs that need to be towed. According to LAHSA, there are 2,363 RVs on the streets of LA and only two public dumping stations, one near LAX and one in San Pedro, a very long way from the West Valley. With nowhere legal or accessible to deal with waste, RVs have had no sanitary options to handle their septic needs, resulting in illegal dumping that is a public health hazard and unnecessary indignity for homeless RV dwellers.
“This is an issue of health and safety. It would help the homeless abide by the law while ensuring that our streets, sidewalks, and gutters are free of massive amounts of human waste,” said Blumenfield.
The motion also instructs those departments to report on the feasibility of providing vouchers for use at a private or public RV dump station for individuals living in RVs who are enrolled in services for housing placement or a contractor on site if the RV is on the wait list for towing.
Permanent Supportive Housing and Motel Conversion to House Homeless
On April 11th, 2017, Councilmember Blumenfield and the City Council took major steps in addressing homelessness in Los Angeles by passing the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Motel Conversion Ordinances. Together, these two ordinances will reduce the building time and cost for new supportive housing as well as ensure that we have more access to transitional housing.
The PSH Ordinance streamlines the process so permanent supportive units can be built quicker. The Motel Conversion Ordinance makes it much easier for motels to convert their units into temporary transitional housing for homeless people and families. The complexity and scope of the homeless crisis require a full range of strategies and services. These two ideas were put forward in the Council’s Comprehensive Homeless Strategy, but it took more than a year to develop, flesh out and put into an actual legislative ordinance.
Helping Businesses Stay Safe
Councilmember Blumenfield has launched an initiative to help business owners have more tools to protect their property. By submitting an authorization form to the LAPD, a property owner can enable LAPD and LAHSA workers authority to enter their site if there are trespassers and help prevent them from causing problems on the property. Blumenfield will supply those businesses with free and approved signs that say “No Loitering/No Trespassing” to comply with the law requiring proper posting (see example to the right). He encourages community members to donate to nonprofits rather than panhandlers and strongly supports Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Days of Compassion initiative to engage faith based charitable organizations to help end homelessness and provide support to local families and individuals. To get more information on how to better protect your business and get a free sign, please call Councilmember Blumenfield’s office at (818) 774-4330 or contact the office if you want to be part of Blumenfield’s outreach to business team.
The Comprehensive Homeless Strategy
The Mayor and Council have approved a multi-tiered holistic program to target homelessness in a new way, starting with improving how the City, County, and nonprofits coordinate their efforts. It was the product of months of testimony and public hearings and led the Council to writing Measure HHH to ask the voters to fund the plan. Please go to www.lamayor.org/Homelessness to learn more.
In the FY 2018-19 budget, the City is investing an unprecedented $430 million, targeting factors that lead people to homelessness including mental health and addiction, as well as building affordable housing and support services.
What are the Core Elements in the Strategy?
Promoting a “No Wrong Door” Approach
This approach coordinates services in a way so that any homeless individual can be linked to supportive services regardless of their point of entry. Whether it’s through LAPD, LAFD, Department of Sanitation, or any City agency, that person will be connected to the assistance they need.
Growing the Coordinated Entry System (CES)
For efficiency, it is important to understand what types of services the homeless population is utilizing and be able to track people living on the street. The CES is operating in all of Los Angeles County and coordinates our government with over 100 different providers. By continuing to update and improve this system, homeless individuals can receive personalized services tailored to their needs to help ensure a brighter future.
Creating New Facilities
Facilities for the homeless, including public hygiene and storage space, are integral to the homelessness strategy. These facilities and services can mitigate the effects of homelessness in the short term while housing is being identified and they also provide an opportunity to engage with homeless individuals. A few of the new types of facilities that are proposed include safe parking space and citywide mobile shower and public restroom units.
‘Housing First’ is an approach that swiftly provides homeless individuals with permanent shelter and then provides essential services. This initiative focuses on helping the most vulnerable individuals on the street in the most efficient way possible. Research has shown that this is a cost effective way to break the cycle for those who are chronically homeless.
This program is different from ‘Housing First’ because it is meant for individuals who recently fell into homelessness and need temporary assistance. It has individualized and flexible services including rental and employment assistance and can be used for individuals or families. This helps prevent those struggling from continuing the path to chronic homelessness.
For more information on the Comprehensive Homeless Strategy click here.
As part of the strategy, Councilmember Blumenfield and the City Council put Measure HHH on the ballot and the voters approved it. It is a $1.2 billion bond targeting new construction of permanent supportive housing for homeless Angelenos. This will work in tandem with the County’s Measure H, which will finance programs such as addiction treatment, job training, education, as well as supportive services for domestic violence victims, vulnerable youth and homeless families. Homelessness has become an emergency and this enormous investment of new strategies and resources is an unprecedented step to curb and eradicate homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles.
Important Frontline Contacts
For Community Members Who Would Like to Help:
1851 Tyburn St. Glendale, 91204
8756 Canby Ave. Northridge, 91325
Emergency Response Team—(213) 225-6581
22103 Vanowen St., Canoga Park 9130
For Homeless in Need of Services:
Mobile Triage Team- (818) 610-6720
Homeless Family Solutions- (818) 255– 2766
Services for Veterans Families- (818) 255-2607
The Homeless Families Solutions System
Overall Homeless Services- 211
Overall Homeless Services- (818) 785-4476
To learn more about Councilmember Blumenfield’s Homelessness efforts in the West Valley, or if you have any other City related question or concern, please call his office at (818) 774-4330, go to his website on homelessness at WestValleyChange.com or email him at Councilmember.Blumenfield@lacity.org
Watch a brief segment on the Homeless Town Hall that Councilmember Blumenfield hosted on September 12th, 2016.