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California

For those who fall out of housing, a steep climb back

Leneace Pope
Leneace Pope, who prefers to be called Niecy, prepares to leave her apartment earlier this year. She is now again living in an encampment on Main Street.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Living in their encampment on Main Street, Niecy and Dion find themselves back where they started.

As fortunate as they had been to be housed, previous habits and old behaviors undermined their ability to hold on to their apartments.

Experts place them in a small minority: About 5% of homeless people fail to make it through a year in supportive housing.

Their inability to hold on to their apartments places them back in the pool of 59,000 people who live in Los Angeles County without a permanent home. Niecy and Dion receive no special consideration, although they do have a slight advantage.

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Their histories are recorded in the county’s homeless database, which is often the first step to securing a housing voucher. Depending on the kind of voucher that had gotten them into housing initially, some will continue to be seen by a case manager who will help them find another apartment.

Before that can happen, though, they need to keep their documentation up to date and participate in a new round of interviews with housing agencies.

To help them remain committed and engaged in the process, their case managers provide them with services that helped them the first time around, including:

— Transportation and/or bus passes so they can get to their appointments on time.

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— Funding and special trips so they can get documentation (driver’s licenses, Social Security cards).

— Guidance through interviews and paperwork.

— Clothing, food and hygiene kits.

— Counseling sessions to maintain self-esteem and develop daily coping skills.

Experts emphasize that all of this takes commitment and tenacity, supported by a degree of hope. Nearly 1,200 units of supportive housing are scheduled to open in Los Angeles County in 2020.


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