‘Gimme Shelter’: The gap in California’s homelessness plan

A man and a woman stand in a street in front of a wall with street art and tents on the sidewalk
Jason Sodenkamp, a case manager for Los Angeles Community Health Project, and Melisa Chavez, director of client services, visit a homeless encampment in Hollywood in December.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers agreed to dedicate $12 million toward fighting rising homelessness in California, a record sum that only grows when local dollars are added to the statewide total.

But if all that new money is going to make a significant dent in getting people off the streets, officials will have to fill a major gap in the state’s homelessness plans: a deep shortage of the service workers whose job it is to connect homeless residents with housing and services.

These workers, who do things like help homeless people secure identification, sign up for public benefits and find shelters, often make between $16 and $18 and hour and face constant high-stress environments. Stories abound of workers with huge caseloads or quitting abruptly and nonprofits being unable to fill positions.


On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we discuss the crucial role of homeless service workers in getting people into housing and the challenges the state is facing because of the worker shortage. Our guests are Fernando Maya, a formerly homeless veteran in Los Angeles who relied on help from service workers to get into and stay in permanent housing over the past couple of years, and Jackie Botts, a reporter at CalMatters who chronicled Maya’s story.

Gimme Shelter,”a biweekly podcast that looks at why it’s so expensive to live in California and what the state can do about it, features Liam Dillon, who covers housing affordability issues for the Los Angeles Times, and Manuela Tobías, housing reporter for CalMatters.

You can subscribe to “Gimme Shelter” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud and Google Podcasts.