Opinion

For Measure H to work well, the federal rule on chronic homelessness needs to be changed

To the editor: As the head of a community mental health center in the San Fernando Valley, I celebrate Measure H and the promise of more housing for homeless people. (“Are the county and city finally ready to reduce homelessness on a massive scale?” editorial, March 13)

The homelessness we have today is an unintended consequence of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act, an investment in de-institutionalization. Measure H funds supportive housing services; there is, however, a problem.

Last July, The Times reported on a client of ours in our “bridge housing” program to stabilize homeless people and assist them in applying for housing. The help he received made him ineligible for federal assistance, as people need to be homeless for a year to qualify as chronically homeless. He returned to the streets.

Our program has 10 beds in leased housing; most are empty because of this rule. The federal definition should be modified to serve people with mental illness who need a safe space, services and assistance with housing applications.

Eva S. McCraven, Pacoima

The writer is president and chief executive of Hillview Mental Health Center Inc.

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To the editor: In the last count, 39% of homeless people in L.A. were African American, yet that ethnic group makes up only 9% of the county’s population. African American men are overrepresented in county jails, and they are misdiagnosed with schizophrenia more than anyone else.

One of our young clients from Compton had been labeled stupid and schizophrenic. We told them this was false, and within months he got a job and started college.

With Measure H, we can help more people overcome homelessness, incarceration and the stigma of racially tinged misdiagnosis.

Marsha Temple, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the Integrated Recovery Network.

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