‘Gimme Shelter’: Why L.A. struggles to provide emergency housing

A woman stands beside a tent and an open water hydrant.
Yolanda Robins, 50, received a federal housing subsidy voucher in January but was unable to find a home. In June, she was still unhoused in downtown Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, federal housing officials developed a new program in hopes of getting homeless residents off the streets more quickly. The voucher effort, which pays the lion’s share of a tenant’s rent, would be easy for tenants to use and provide generous incentives to landlords. In some cases, landlords and property managers could receive bonuses of $7,000 simply for allowing one of these new voucher holders to live in their unit.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we discuss why Los Angeles has struggled to house people under this program, despite the loosened restrictions and vast need for homeless housing. L.A. had only used about 6% of the more than 3,000 vouchers it had received as of last month. Our guest is Jack Lahey, director of homeless services at the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, which has had much greater success with the voucher program than L.A.


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.