Will Los Angeles get a ‘Department of Homelessness’?

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, April 30, approved a motion calling for the creation of a Department of Homelessness that would be responsible for overseeing the city’s efforts to reduce the problem.

In a 13-0 vote, council members instructed staff to report back on how best to create a department, or other means of centralizing coordination and oversight on homelessness efforts. Council members Bob Blumenfield and Katy Yaroslavsky were absent during the vote.

Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, who introduced the motion in March, urged her colleagues to vote in favor.

“As Los Angeles continues to grapple with the growing numbers of homeless individuals, we’ve seen repeated headlines reflecting millions of dollars unaccounted for born out of programs being managed by political offices or across multiple departments,” Rodriguez said.

LA City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez poses for a photo with a youth group during a rally prior to the start of the 31st Annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice Sunday morning. Activists from around the San Fernando Valley gathered for the event in honor of social justice leader Cesar E. Chavez. (Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

She added that with “tens of thousands of people living on our streets, in cars and RVs, it is time to create a centralized department with a singular focus that maximizes taxpayer dollars. Working with urgency shouldn’t equate to an abandonment of transparency, we must stretch our resources to aid the most people out of homelessness and clean up our city for Angelenos and business owners that are suffering with the consequences of our current environment.”

The report is expected to include information as to how city funding is being spent on sanitation, encampment resolution and in partnership with county efforts; how potential sites for temporary and permanent housing are being identified and developed; data on homelessness and accountability of service providers; contracting processes; emergency response; and homelessness prevention.

According to Rodriguez’s motion, the goal of establishing a Department of Homelessness is to “dismantle organizational silos,” improving coordination and enhance transparency regarding the city’s many homelessness programs. The department would report to Mayor Karen Bass and the City Council.

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Rodriguez said policies and programs are currently dispersed among too many entities, making it “impossible” for the city to apply lessons learned from successful approaches.

Rodriguez said systemic factors pose challenges to institutionalizing existing successful models or new ones governing the city’s $1.3 billion investment into its homeless response.

The city administrative officer, the Housing Department and the mayor’s Office each dedicate significant staff time and resources to managing “overlapping homelessness interventions,” she said.

“Within this system, determined efforts to evaluate city-funded homelessness programs often run aground, as the providers of services produce irregular and imprecise reporting on contractually-obligated metrics and outcomes,” the motion reads.

The council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee previously approved the motion on April 17.

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