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June 23, 2020 | September 23, 2020 | 11,741 total views

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After temporary Project Roomkey, long-term housing for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 will require City, County approval to fund $800 million COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Today, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released its full COVID-19 Recovery Plan for people experiencing homelessness, a report and budget outlining the action steps to implement the framework first presented to the board on May 26.

The cornerstone of the plan is the LA Rehousing Recovery Strategy, an ambitious goal to rapidly move the 15,000 most high-risk, high-acuity people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing—including the 4,000 people who have been brought inside since March at unprecedented speed through Project Roomkey (In reference to homelessness, “acuity” refers to the severity of presenting issues).

During the initial lease-up phase, July 2020 to June 2021, nearly all of the 15,000 people will be moved into a “bridging” unit, where they will have deeply subsidized rent along with varying levels of services depending on their needs. A small number of the 15,000 will be assisted through one-time problem-solving resources to facilitate their placement into permanent housing without a long-term subsidy or will be moved directly into supportive housing as turnover units become available each month.

“We’ve sheltered more than 6,000 people in the past few months through our pandemic response. A huge achievement but a temporary solution,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said. “We need sustainable housing solutions for this vulnerable population. We set the goal of re-housing 15,000 people because that’s the estimated number of people experiencing homelessness who are 65 or older, or, who have an underlying health condition making them highly susceptible to hospitalization or death, should they contract COVID-19. This is about saving lives. We are not backing away from that number. We know how to house them. We need the resources from the city, county, state, and federal government to do it.”

The overall cost of the program will top $800 million, which includes an estimated $600 million in new funding over the next three years to house this population, and $200 million in costs that are already planned in the homeless services system. The plan is expected to be funded by a combination of city, county, state, and federal emergency response funds, which the city and county already have and are making decisions on how to allocate. However, if LAHSA only receives a portion of the funding, it can only house a proportionate number of Los Angeles County’s most at-risk population to COVID-19.

“For far too long we have tolerated systemic disparities, which have led to a disproportionate number of Black people living on our streets and sidewalks. Now is the time to take a stand and implement solutions to protect our most vulnerable Angelenos,“ said LAHSA Commissioner Jacqueline Waggoner, who chairs LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. “We are committed to implementing this plan and to resetting our own systems in a way that fosters racial equity at every turn.”

“These are our parents and grandparents, our neighbors with disabilities and chronic conditions-—we must not let them down,” LAHSA Commission Chair Sarah Dusseault said. “Anything short of housing the 15,000 most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness puts this population, already so exposed, at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. We can’t let that happen.”

“We have a comprehensive plan, and we’re ready to launch it immediately with our service provider partners across the County. We need our government partners to release the funding and give us the authority to implement,” Marston said. “We are ready to act, and lives are in the balance.”

About the Plan

The proposed rehousing recovery strategy uses an infusion of one-time resources to launch an initial lease-up period to quickly house the target population and then works over a three-year period to place people in the most appropriate program to their level of need.

Once housed through the lease-up effort, participants will be assessed and supported in exiting to permanent housing. People with higher acuity will either be moved into supportive housing for long-term affordability and support or will be connected to a long-term shallow subsidy to support their rent.

For those with slightly lower acuities, participants will follow one of three pathways: A 15-month (on average) recovery re-housing subsidy, enhanced with supportive services that eventually lead to permanent housing, with a portion of these participants moving on to a long-term shallow subsidy; a nine-month (on average) recovery re-housing subsidy that eventually leads to permanent housing; or problem-solving and one-time financial assistance to establish permanent housing.

In addition to the rehousing component, the recovery plan calls for scaling up LAHSA-funded prevention programming by 50%, including tenant protections to keep people in their homes. The report maps out short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategies that will guide the county’s response across five areas of focus: housing, shelter, unsheltered homelessness, prevention and problem-solving strategies, and strengthening system capacity.

As the recovery plan ramps up, LAHSA’s plan also proposes to extend Project Roomkey leases as needed, to the extent that motels and hotels are willing to continue participating in the program. To conclude Project Roomkey, LAHSA anticipates a need of approximately $44.8 million through November 2020, with an average of 800 people being re-housed out of Project Roomkey each month beginning in July 2020 and concluding in November 2020.

The recovery plan will be led by a command structure based at LAHSA with input coming through the Regional Housing Advisory Council. Implementation will be led by a collaborative team consisting of LAHSA, the LA County CEO, Department of Health Services, Department of Mental Health, and Department of Public Health, and the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and Chief Administrative Office (CAO). It will require the following system enhancements already underway through the new Housing Central Command structure:

  • Identifying and acquiring housing units and properties, and deploying holding fees
  • Increasing ability to quickly match and assign available housing units to clients
  • Dedicated staff to help people find and move into available units
  • Inventory management system to enable active tracking of available resources
  • Buy and pre-assemble move-in kits at scale, so residents have basic supplies
  • Real-time awareness of housing units that will become available in the next 7 days

Given the challenges of LA’s rental market, this LA Rehousing Recovery Strategy will require a large-scale effort to acquire and lease-up property and to build out a new level of efficiency and real-time awareness of LA’s rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing inventory.

For more information, read LAHSA’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan report.