Asked but not Answered
In July, I convened a telephone town hall to answer your questions and discuss new programs to address homelessness in the West Valley. Though I couldn't answer every question that came in during the hour, I still wanted to answer every question. Please see below for a list of the questions that came through during the town hall. Note: these questions are from the individuals who submitted a question while the town hall was live. For folks who left a voicemail to my office or who emailed me a question, you should have either received a personal email response from me or have been contacted by my staff to provide you with an answer.
1. I have a question regarding pallet housing. I like the idea. Will there be a mandate to keep the area clean? Will occupants be cited for littering and public drunkenness or drug use? They should not be able
to create unsafe hazards around their housing such as needles and human waste. Nor should they be allowed to threaten passersby. They should be at risk of losing their pallet housing if they break these
- I agree. While the details for our potential ‘cabin communities’ have not been worked out there would definitely be rules. There is a ‘cabin community’ in Riverside county that is a good model, and you can learn more about it here.
2. I've called LAHSA many times and they have never responded to any of my calls. We would like to see a transparent budget on the billion tax dollars that have been collected for homelessness. They say it will cost over $550,000 to house homeless, why? and is that forever, is it permanent or is there job training?
In terms of $1.2 Billion HHH funds for Permanent supportive Housing, you can see where every dollar has been allocated and when the housing is to come online. Please go to HCID2.LACITY.ORG or whatever site the dashboard can be found). The City Controller has done an audit on these funds which you can read here and in it he explains some of the reasons for the very high cost of this housing (i.e. high development costs because money comes from multiple sources, high labor costs as it is prevailing wage, communal area costs gets folded into per unit costs, etc). I agree that we need to find more cost effective alternatives and I am a big proponent of modular housing, pre-fabricated homes, master leasing, congregate housing, pallet shelters, etc. We need to be creative. You can read about one of my efforts to do just that here.
3. How are you getting people in the parking lot? The homeless are building houses.
- If you are referring to the Safe Parking Program behind my office, the people are referred to a local non-profit and are vetted before they are allowed to park in the lot. Click here for more information about Safe Parking and click here to watch a video about the Safe Parking program behind my office.
4. Can we commandeer luxury housing that is vacant? It would be great to make it eligible for forced purchase and devise a very-low-rent subsidy program, and reserve them to house currently homeless people or people who can no longer afford their residences.
- Commandeering housing is complicated. Under the law, property can be obtained through ‘eminent domain’ for a public purpose at fair market value. Whether or not purchase of these units is cost effective needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. I put together a proposal to transform a luxury building into homeless housing that was unfortunately not funded because it was ‘too innovative’ for the HHH requirements. You can read about it here.
5. The tens of thousands of new apartments that have been built, were they not helping the homeless?
- See above previous answer.
6. Will there be rules that people have to follow to live in the places that are built?
Yes, there will be rules. Bridge Housing and Pallet shelters have rules but are low barriers to entry. Permanent supportive housing tends to have more rules. We opened a permanent supportive Housing project known as Winnetka Village three years ago and we haven’t had a single complaint from neighbors —- it has been a model for positive rehabilitation.
7. Can we get the homeless working and housing?
- That is the goal! See here or here to see how the current schedule for permanent supportive housing built with HHH is progressing. There are many programs to get the homeless working from Targeted Local Hire on the City level, to Clean Street, Clean Starts on the local level.
8. Why aren't we addressing the core of the problem with the homeless?
The core problems include poverty, lack of affordable housing, drug addiction, mental illness, wage disparities and much more. These problems are not just City issues but cut across all levels of government. Solutions I am pursuing run the gamut from economic development, to promotion of affordable housing , to creating more shelter beds. Please see my website for additional information.
9. Homeless is caused by drug addiction. What aren't we discussing the real issue?
I agree that drug addiction is a critical and core issue. It is one of the reasons I helped initiate a creative program to help deal with this. While the City doesn’t administer health programs because this is the exclusive jurisdiction of the County, we do refer people to these critical programs. As you many know however, we cannot legally force people into treatment. There is some proposed State legislation to make it easier to do so. The drug addiction issue is something that I talk about and that we need grapple with. Currently, many folks won’t go into shelters for a variety of reasons. Some won’t go because they believe the shelters are too dangerous. Some won’t go because there are no shelters in the West Valley and their connections and networks are all in the West Valley. And, there are some who won’t go because they simply don’t want to follow rules or stop doing drugs, etc. By providing different types of shelters such as Bridge Homes and Pallet Shelters. we can probably overcome some of the resistance and we are legally required to do this according to numerous Court cases. As far as the truly resistant, we may not be able to get them to go into a shelter — but if we can offer shelter and have shelters available — we can legally enforce anti-camping laws.
10. What are you going to do about the people who have told us they do not want to go into shelters? What can you do to help homeowners being effected by the situation? Even when reporting to 311 I cannot report how much trash is being left.
- See above previous answer.
11. What do you think is the greatest factor with the homeless?
- I think there are a variety of factors — Poverty is probably the biggest overall driver — issues of affordable housing and even drug use are often related. Drug use and mental illness debilitate many people and prevent them from breaking out of homelessness.
12. I know someone mentioned a spectrum and many times what is needed is rehabilitation for either drugs or mental health. What can we as citizens and those public officials do to help long term?
- We are lucky to have two wonderful groups serving the needs of those struggling with drug addiction in our community. The first is the Salvation Army in Canoga Park, the second is the Tarzana Treatment Center in Tarzana. As mentioned previously, we have recently launched a partnership with the Tarzana Treatment Center to continue to expand their emergency room patient navigator program operating out of Providence Cedar Sinai Hospital so that they are able to offer treatment beds to people in the hospital who agree to accept services. With this said, there is still much work to be done in this sector and we hope to see further progress in the years to come.
13. When they house the homeless do they divide mental health issues and drug issues with other families?
- While different facilities cater to different populations — issues of mental health and drug addiction often run through many different types of population. There are certainly many programs targeted to folks with these issues.
14. What is done to help veterans who are experiencing homelessness?
- It is shameful that someone who served this Country is experiencing homelessness. There are numerous programs specifically designed to help Veterans and more information can be found here.
15. Is there any provision for people who have a cognitive or physical disability to maintain a place to live?
This is something that LAHSA is very concerned and focused on. Over 52% (16,464) of the units offered were permanent supportive housing, units for people experiencing homelessness with disabilities or families in which at least one child has a disability. Learn more here.
16. Are you sending out health officials to see if their medical needs are being met?
- The LAHSA outreach workers do refer people to medical services and we do provide services through homeless connect days. Watch a video about homeless connect days here. The City does not have a health department — these issues are handles by the County exclusively.
17. Why is it that Canoga Park always tend to have these public places when surrounding areas with more space have not been affected?
- All areas of the District need to be part of the solution. While Canoga Park, because it has more industrial areas than other parts of the district, is often more attractive for homeless housing than others areas that are mostly residential — it should not bear a disproportionate share. Reseda has Safe Parking and a project RoomKey hotel, Winnetka has a Permanent Supportive Housing Project, Tarzana has a homeless RV waste dumping station, and Woodland Hills has a temporary homeless shelter at its Recreation Center. All areas will likely have additional shelters as we strive to meet the expectations of the pending Federal Court case being heard by Judge David Carter. To learn more about this settlement, click here.
18. How was the City successful in moving the homeless from other areas, but not Winnetka?
The City labors under the same rules and regulations throughout the City— there is no simple approach that has been working elsewhere. Generally, LAHSA houses individuals based on their acuity score, rather than their location. They have been experimenting with location based prioritization. Many people point to the Paxton underpass as a recent success story — this was one such foray into this location based privatization approach. There, an entire encampment was offered alternative housing after months of preparation and dedicated resources. They were all moved to a project RoomKey hotel that had recently been opened. We are using the same approach for the Winnetka underpass through a recently initiated pilot program with LAHSA.
19. I live in Woodland Hills. In front of my house there is a parking lot where the homeless live, prostitutes, drug dealers. The solution should be the parking lot is sold.
- Please call my office with the specifics. Are you referring to a public or private parking lot? We are happy to work with you to find solutions.
20. It’s very unpleasant and unsafe to see people under the freeways and on the sidewalks. I would not feel safe having a shelter next to my home. The valley is going to be a nightmare. These people really need help but it’s not just housing, a lot of drugs, some of these people need rehab. You need to make an assessment for each of them. The majority of them with mental problems, drug problems, etc. need help you can’t just house them next to people’s homes.
- LAHSA’s job is to assess folks and get them connected with the right type of services — that is the basis of the coordinate entry system. Yes, a large percentage of folks require drug treatment. As you may know, the City (by Charter) doesn’t have a health department and doesn’t provide drug treatment or mental health — this falls to the County of Los Angeles. Nonetheless, I found a creative way to get additional treatment programs in the West Valley. Housing is critical to stabilize folks, but you are correct that it is not just housing.
21. Why can’t something be done to make it illegal to camp in underpasses, people with wheelchairs cannot even access the sidewalks.
Currently, there are numerous Court cases that prevent us from making it illegal to camp under underpasses, however a pending Court case may change that. I wrote an article about this which you can read here. Also, here is a link to the City Attorney’s website where he outlines some of the major legal cases that have severely restricted the City’s ability to enforce anti-camping laws.
22. Why are the homeless on Winnetka and Corbin? Why are some underpasses such a mess when others don't seem to have any? What is attracting them to one place over another? Why can't they be moved out? You can't walk on sidewalks, even near schools.
- There is not always a specific reason for why some underpasses become encampments and others don’t, and it shifts over time. I recently wrote a letter to a number of constituents who asked similar questions, here is an excerpt from that letter:
- Thank you for contacting me about homelessness encampments in several of our underpasses – particularly Winnetka and Corbin. I understand and share your frustration at the number of encampments on the street and debris piling up and impeding access through the underpasses. I agree that it is unacceptable to let people live in squalor as it poses a health and safety risk to them and everyone else. I agree that the trash left behind by folks is not only inconsiderate but the cause of blight and health problems. And, I agree that it is unacceptable to have critical pedestrian passageways blocked — especially near a school. Everyone should be able to safely and securely use our sidewalks, and ADA access should always be enforced (to read the full letter, click here).
23. What are they doing between Winnetka Ave and Oso?
- See above for previous answer.
24. How can you help the homeless?
- West Valley Food Pantry in Woodland Hills and One Generation Senior Center in Reseda are both operating drive through food banks during this pandemic and are constantly in need of volunteers. Valley Vineyard Church in Reseda, Our Lutheran Redeemer in Winnetka and the Guadaloupe Center in Canoga Park are also operating walk in food banks during this pandemic. Please reach out to any of these local organizations to inquire about volunteer needs through my volunteer intake form.
25. What can I do to help with the homeless situation?
- See above previous answer.
26. Would like to encourage to set up access centers for homeless individuals, would like to share thoughts.
- Yes, yes yes! We have some of these located in North Hollywood operated by LA Family Housing but need more. LA-HOP is somewhat of a virtual access center, but I agree that physical ones are important.
27. Question for Heidi. Why do you think there are more black people are homeless than white people?
- Homelessness, like all issues in society, are deeply connected to racial disparities in America. We as a City are working hard with LAHSA to support homeless persons of color and rapidly connect them with services to address these glaring disparities. As reported from the LAHSA 2020 Homeless Count, the number of Black Angelenos experiencing homelessness is highly disproportionate to the population (9% of the county's population and 33% of homeless population).
28. Wants to know if the Councilmember can take over the Chatsworth area. Appreciates that he's very involved. Wants to know what is happening with the 301 M that were set aside to help homeowners. How can she access the funds?
- While redistricting is coming next year, the third district will probably not get extended into Chatsworth... but thanks for the compliment. I’m not sure what 301 M that you are referring to, but please call my office to clarify and we will provide an answer to you.
29. Why is the summer camp not a good idea?
- I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you are referring to — call my office to explain if you want more of an answer. If you are referring to Recreation and Parks summer camps, they did not believe they could safely offer the camps this year given COVID.
30. I am permanently disabled veteran. How can you help?
- Please call my office and ask to speak with my District Director, Michael Owens, and we will connect you to appropriate services.
31. What can I do to find help with my mortgage payments?
- The State has an application page so homeowners can defer their mortgage. Please apply here.
32. Why can't we lock up our paint cans, according to state law?
- Because this is a State issue, I would recommend you contact your State Assemblymember.