LAHSA, CITY & COUNTY ANNOUNCE ‘HOUSING CENTRAL COMMAND’ TO MOVE PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS INTO HOMES FASTER AND CUT RED TAPE
Los Angeles, CA (Feb. 18, 2020)—Today, the key players in Los Angeles’s homeless crisis response system announced a new initiative to revamp how city, county and federal agencies work together and increase the speed and effectiveness with which the system helps people experiencing homelessness move into housing.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has created Housing Central Command (HCC), a new initiative to establish unprecedented real-time awareness of LA's permanent supportive housing (PSH) portfolio across all jurisdictions and funding streams, including how many homes are available, which are vacant, and how quickly the thousands of case managers, providers and partners are moving people into them. HCC is based on a crisis response model developed by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to rehouse people after natural disasters.
While homeless services agencies are collaborating more closely than ever before, the decentralized structure of local governments and government authorities in Los Angeles County continues to present unique challenges to the homeless services system. To respond to those challenges, HCC includes representatives from LAHSA, the Los Angeles County Development Authority, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti’s office, the County Department of Health Services and the County Department of Mental Health. Now meeting daily, HCC is one of the earliest activated initiatives of a new system vision and planned restructuring of LAHSA.
“Housing Central Command represents a new approach to refine our rehousing system,” said Heidi Marston, Interim Executive Director of LAHSA. “Getting everyone in the same room at the same time lets us see the inventory we can use to bring our neighbors home. When we turn complex inter-agency interactions into face-to-face communications, we get more people into more homes quicker and with less red tape. We can set system goals across jurisdictional lines for the first time—and we can achieve them.”
“We recognize that we need this type of approach to make sure that the numerous entities that are working to address homelessness, are doing so collaboratively and with the greatest of efficiencies,” said Emilio Salas, LACDA Acting Executive Director.
As the underlying economic forces pushing people into homelessness show no sign of abating--every day, an average of 130 people experiencing homelessness move into housing, while 150 more people become homeless--an internal restructuring by LAHSA can remove obstacles that have prevented the full use of available resources (such as housing inventory) and hampered effective response.
In March 2019, LAHSA hired Clutch Consulting to develop a strategic plan to strengthen LAHSA. National experts on homeless response systems, the team’s prior experience included the effort that reduced homelessness in Houston, TX, by 52% over eight years.
The work revealed that the multiple funding streams, cities, Continuums of Care, and housing authorities in LA prevent any one entity from achieving visibility across the homeless response system, much less comprehensive management. LAHSA’s key role in rehousing and outreach situated the organization to lead with system improvements to increase visibility and improve speed and effectiveness in housing people experiencing homelessness.
“To end homelessness in L.A., you need a system that lets people work together across many jurisdictions,” said Mandy Chapman Semple, the co-founder of Clutch Consulting. “The operations of the HCC are the first look at how a more coordinated system can make a big difference towards ending homelessness faster.”
After identifying lags in filling available units of permanent supportive housing, LAHSA consulted with experts at the federal department of Housing and Urban Development with track records of success rehousing communities struck by disaster, which led to the HCC model.
Activated in December 2019, HCC has already removed several key obstacles. Today, there is public housing authority consensus for electronic submission of CoC-required documents such as ID, Birth Certificates, and Social Security Cards, from rental applicants. Permanent disability documentation no longer expires. LAHSA staff will soon be co-located at the housing authorities, where they can shepherd and troubleshoot applications.
HCC will begin testing in service planning areas 4 and 7 (Metro and East LA) later this week. A vacancy dashboard which will be rolled out in March, will establish inventory awareness and will eventually serve as a model application system-wide.
HCC has also begun to address a critical issue: $30 million out of a $106.5 million 2017 grant from HUD to the Los Angeles Continuum of Care that had gone unspent within a required calendar-year time frame. Under analysis, multiple causes for the underspend emerged. Some were effects of the housing crisis: low vacancy rates, higher market rates than public housing authorities could pay, landlord bias against tenants with mental disorders or a history of homelessness. Others resulted from outdated, incompatible or complex systems: long, difficult housing applications that required multiple rounds of revision, documents that were difficult for people experiencing homelessness to obtain, and complicated requirements that led to delays and rejections. These obstacles produced an average waiting period of 10 months from a person being matched to housing to signing a lease—and that long wait made it impossible to spend the allocated resources.
In response to the HCC program, HUD has indicated a willingness to extend the deadline for housing grants that were scheduled to expire.
“It’s unacceptable to leave money on the table that has been allocated to ending homelessness,” said Marston of LAHSA. “The work of the HCC showed us how seemingly small obstacles added up to death by a thousand cuts. Through it, we can examine each problem, address it, and get the people who are in our system into their new homes faster.”