Homeless services leaders vow to abolish L.A. homelessness

L.A. homeless services officials say they are on the path to abolishing homelessness

Los Angeles homeless service officials said Friday that they were on the path to abolishing homelessness.

Speaking at a 20th anniversary event for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, officials said the coordinated entry system, which matches the most vulnerable people in the streets to housing, could be a game changer. The county's family solution centers, which offer one-stop help to homeless parents and children, also appear promising.

Both programs were adopted in the last 1 1/2 years to eliminate red tape that had some homeless people giving up on finding housing.

The homeless authority, a city-county agency started in 1994, oversees $70 million in state, local and national funding for housing and other services.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to house the city's 2,600 homeless veterans by the end of next year.  The county defied national trends by reporting a 15% jump in the number of homeless people from 2011 to 2013. County residents in recent months have reported an explosion in highly visible homeless encampments.

At Friday's event, several speakers assailed a federal homeless funding formula, which they said penalizes Los Angeles by factoring in the age of the housing stock.

Under the formula, Philadelphia gets $11,000 per homeless person, while Los Angeles gets $1,500, homeless authority Commissioner Kerry Morrison said.

"It's ludicrous we are so desperately in need of resources," said Peter Lynn, a former Los Angeles city housing official who took over as the homeless authority's executive director Dec. 1.

Lynn said healthcare funding from the Affordable Care Act could be a big boost for homeless people, many of whom have physical and mental health disabilities.

Commission Vice-Chairman Mike Neely, who was homeless in downtown Los Angeles in the 1980s, recounted some of the failed schemes to end homelessness of the past, including a plan to relocate everyone living in downtown streets in the Arts District.

"People didn't seem to think that was a great idea," said Neely, a civic leader and past director of the Homeless Outreach Program. He retired in 2004. 

@geholland

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