County Defends Aid to Homeless

Times Staff Writer

County officials mounted a vigorous defense Tuesday against claims by Mayor James K. Hahn and other city officials that Los Angeles County is shirking its share of the responsibility for helping the homeless.

Hahn said this week that the county has failed to fulfill what he said was a 1993 pledge to match city spending on homeless programs, an assertion that county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke called "very disturbing."

Both the city and county contribute to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, formed in 1993 after the city sued the county, accusing it of not doing enough to serve the poor.

But Carlos Jackson, executive director of the county Community Development Commission, said Tuesday that the original agreement between the city and county was amended in 2001 to specify actual dollar amounts for the two sides to contribute and that "those two dollar amounts are not equal."

Although conceding that the county contributes $6.5 million to the agency, compared with the city's $13.7 million, Jackson said the county's responsibility extends beyond providing emergency shelters for the homeless population downtown.

"Homelessness is throughout Los Angeles County, [and] this board has taken major steps to address that," Jackson told the county Board of Supervisors.

He detailed how the "enormous amount of service dollars" the county provides for programs for the homeless is spent, including almost $26 million for the mentally ill homeless population through the Department of Mental Health and nearly $24 million for transitional housing.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said Tuesday that as the city's spending on programs for the homeless has increased, the county has reduced such spending on a per-person basis inside Los Angeles and increased it in areas outside the city.

"It's not going to help anyone to have a lot of charges and recrimination," said Burke, suggesting that Hahn meet with the county supervisors to find a way to better coordinate city and county resources.

"We have done more than our part," said Supervisor Gloria Molina, who was on the City Council when the lawsuit that gave rise to the authority was filed. "Having been over there at the city level, I was very concerned about the lack of services in the county. But the services are now there ... because we put them in there."

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