L.A. County to look into a funding measure for a homeless plan

Los Angeles County officials, like their counterparts in the city of Los Angeles, are considering going to the voters to raise money for ongoing efforts to address homelessness.

County supervisors approved a plan this month to spend about $150 million on initiatives to address homelessness by July 2017, but the county lacks a plan for ongoing funding.

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On Tuesday, the supervisors voted to direct the county’s chief executive office to begin looking into potential sources of long-term funding, including potentially going to the voters for a tax increase. County staff will conduct polling to determine the optimum timing and structure of such an initiative.

“I think it’s clear … one-time funding will not be enough to sustain our efforts and make progress,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who proposed the study along with Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “Current county resources are simply not sufficient to fund these initiatives and services to combat homelessness on an ongoing basis.”

Some of his colleagues noted that any tax increase to fund homelessness efforts would compete with other upcoming funding measures, including a potential county parks measure and one for Metro transportation projects. Supervisor Hilda Solis asked that the chief executive's office do an inventory of potentially competing measures while looking at funding options.

The proposal that passed Tuesday did not specify whether the county would join with the city in introducing a measure or would pursue a separate initiative. A spokesman for Ridley-Thomas said county staff might recommend joining with the city after doing more research.

The supervisors also asked the chief executive to look at other funding mechanisms that would not require voter approval, including a proposal by state Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León to use some of the existing revenues generated by the state’s Mental Health Services Act to leverage a $2-billion bond to build more permanent supportive housing.

At the request of Antonovich, they will also consider avenues that would allow the county to use a portion of the funds it gets from Measure B — a parcel tax passed by voters in 2002 to pay for trauma centers -- to pay for homeless services without increasing taxes. 

Though it is unclear what strategy the county will ultimately settle on, advocates praised the effort to look for long-term funding sources.

"The board has made an admirable down payment" on paying for a homelessness reduction measure, said Steve Renahan, senior policy advisor with Shelter Partnership. "But what we need is sustainable, annual resources."

Twitter: @sewella


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5:45 p.m.: This post was updated to include information about the possible use of Measure B funds for homeless services.