LAHSA leader marks her first 100 days by unveiling a new homeless center in South L.A.

Va Lecia Adams Kellum stands at a microphone and smiles at Mayor Karen Bass
Va Lecia Adams Kellum, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, left, speaks at a news conference last year.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

After 100 days leading the agency at the forefront of solving Los Angeles County’s homelessness crisis, Va Lecia Adams Kellum touted a new pilot program as representative of her collaborative approach.

The 24,000-square-foot Welcome Navigation Center, operated by Adams Kellum’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, is located on 45th Street and Broadway in South L.A. and will be staffed 24 hours a day in an effort to funnel people from the streets into permanent housing.

The center will ideally be “the bullet train to permanent housing,” Adams Kellum said at a news conference Tuesday at the center, which will open next month and cost $5.6 million to operate annually.


Adams Kellum pointed to other markers of progress since she started as LAHSA’s chief executive officer in late March. She has overseen the formation of a multi-departmental crisis response team to coordinate and streamline a complex bureaucracy, decreasing the time for people to move into permanent supportive housing by 75%, from 120 days to 30 days.

LAHSA has also focused on preparing necessary documents for homeless people in advance, so that when housing units open up, they can be placed faster. The agency plans to match two people to each unit to increase the odds that someone is ready to move in when it becomes available.

Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president and CEO of St. Joseph Center, is appointed executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Jan. 23, 2023

Adams Kellum also cited a winter program that gave people hotel vouchers rather than placing them in group shelters.

“What I’ve brought to LAHSA is a renewed focus on key areas that will significantly improve our ability to address unsheltered homelessness,” she said. “When our system is focused, it makes an impact.”

But Adams Kellum acknowledged the need for improvement, at a time when people are falling into homelessness faster than they can be housed.

Homelessness rose dramatically last year, increasing by 9% in Los Angeles County and 10% in the city of Los Angeles, according to the annual point-in-time count released in June.


In the county, 75,518 people were living in interim housing or a tent, car, van, RV or makeshift shelter, compared with 69,144 the previous year.

Since the 2015 count, homelessness has increased by 70% in the county and 80% in the city.

Continuing a persistent rise over the last several years, homelessness was estimated to have increased 10% in the city of Los Angeles in 2022 and 9% across the county.

June 29, 2023

Officials fear those numbers will worsen as thousands face possible eviction because of unpaid rent during the pandemic. The deadline to pay the rent was Tuesday.

“We can’t afford one more person or family member to fall out of housing,” Adams Kellum said. “This is something that is going to make our crisis even worse.”

LAHSA has been a critical partner in L.A. Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program. Last week, LAHSA reported that 1 in 6 participants has left the program’s housing facilities or exited the program entirely.

To improve data collection, which has long been the subject of criticism, Adams Kellum said that LAHSA has contracted with an outside firm that will help build a new data management team.


L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said that Adams Kellum has made progress in overhauling an agency that, according to Barger, needed a better-coordinated response to the homelessness crisis.

Barger, who has been strongly critical of LAHSA, praised Adams Kellum for meeting with city officials who felt neglected by the agency.

“She has shown up at my cities, and she’s owning the shortcomings within LAHSA and recognizing it’s not going to change overnight, but she’s committed to transparency and accountability,” Barger said.

Barger said she is cautiously optimistic about Adams Kellum’s leadership — a far cry from last year, when she was so unhappy with LAHSA that she co-wrote a motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission to scrutinize the agency.

The commission reported back with a series of recommendations, including the creation of a new agency to replace LAHSA.

LAHSA, which was born out of a lawsuit between the city and county, is funded by both governments and beholden in different ways to the elected officials of each. The lack of clarity about LAHSA’s role has been a source of consternation in recent years, even as the agency’s annual budget has grown to $845 million.


Adams Kellum’s arrival at LAHSA occurred amid a shift in leadership at Los Angeles City Hall, with Bass’ election as mayor and newly elected City Council members leading to renewed collaboration between city and county leaders as well as homeless services agencies.

Previously, Adams Kellum ran the St. Joseph Center, working alongside Bass to clear encampments in Venice and Hollywood. The center did much of the outreach to encampment residents and worked to find them hotel rooms.