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A Pending Homeless State of Emergency?The Perspective of a Comprehensive Service Provide

The July 26, 2021 PPTFH community webinar addressed important issues arising out of the escalating state of homelessness in Los Angeles. Sharon Browning, introduced John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern, by posing questions relating to the role of service providers ("SPs") in assuring the successful implementation of Los Angeles City and County plans for public health and safety. The People Concern is a leading provider of and advocate for evidence-based solutions to the challenges inherent in homelessness and domestic violence.

Maceri began by emphasizing that finding solutions to this crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. From a policy perspective this is a county-wide issue. Although each SP has a different focus, the basic approach is three-fold: (i) relentless street engagement; (ii) provision of bridges to permanent housing; (iii) wrap-around services. There exists a "push/pull" between the City and the County in response to Judge David Carter's order to "step it up." Key issues include the use, building and funding of public-owned spaces for various types of temporary housing and involvement of federal agencies such as FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The end goal of The People Concern is placement in permanent supportive housing with flow-through from temporary housing such as that provided by Project Roomkey and various types of congregate situations. The existing plans for construction of tents or tiny homes are expensive and are not a solution since there is no exit strategy. Every possible tool must be used to construct permanent housing at a reasonable cost, including modular construction, 3D printing and adaptive re-use.

He continued that collectively we must not get stuck on "either/or" thinking. The current situation "is dire...unhealthy...inhumane and it absolutely cannot continue." There are proven good practices, but solving timing/capacity issues is necessary to establish a 24/7/365 plan for dedicated resources. Funding for ongoing support services with trained clinical staff is critical to evaluate the changing and varying types of needs. For example, a medical condition can precipitate a person who had previously refused services to seek help.

Maceri observed that elected officials must be more transparent because the key to the work of SPs is establishment of trusting relationships. He reiterated his previous public statements that the City has failed to do a good job of its representations to the community for its planned operation of bridge housing which has led to anger and mistrust. At this point impacted communities are not allowed the necessary input to ensure the success of a project.

In closing Maceri urged our Governor and State Legislature to engage in creative thinking and that as a community we need both political will and moral outrage. He strongly believes that arriving at long-term viability and sustainability is a solvable problem.

Elizabeth Fore Keatinge


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