Torrance has received $1 million in federal funding to aid the city’s homeless response, officials announced Monday, April 25.
The money, which came from Congress’ recently passed bipartisan spending bill, will help support Torrance’s 40-unit temporary housing program — set to open in June at the Civic Center — and city efforts to clean and make improvements at existing homeless encampments. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, helped secure the federal money.
Besides a short-term place to live, the one-year temporary housing pilot program will provide each participant with an array of social services, including access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training and help finding work, and specialized assistance to find permanent housing.
“These funds will go towards the city’s homelessness project,” Mayor Pat Furey said during a Monday event at City Hall, during which Lieu presented the money Torrance officials. “It’ll support not only the infrastructure of the project, but the ability to retain outreach coordinators, which is so important.”
Outreach coordinators typically identify and cultivate relationships with those who are homeless in an effort to provide them with housing and other social services. Torrance will also use the federal money to hire housing navigators, who will help program participants find permanent housing, Furey said.
The money will also be used, Furey said, to clean up existing homeless encampments throughout the city.
“That is actually what the real goal is,” he said, “to clean up the homeless encampments that we presently have.”
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported 332 unhoused individuals in Torrance during its 2020 homeless count survey — a 106 person increase from the previous year. LAHSA conducted its 2022 count in January — after last year’s was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic — but won’t release the results until July.
“We have an anti-camping ordinance, which unfortunately we cannot enforce because of the court decision,” Furey said. “So someone can sleep in the middle of the sidewalk and we’re restricted because we don’t have a place for them to locate.”
In Martin v. Boise, a landmark court case, a federal judge ruled that cities could not legally enforce anti-camping ordinances without first providing shelter for their unhoused populations — citing the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment guarantee of protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
The city, Furey said, will use the funds from Lieu’s office to install additional infrastructure at sites where those who are homeless tend to congregate and set up encampments. Those improvements include wrought iron fencing, hazardous waste removal and landscaping to improve the aesthetic appeal of those locations.
“We really have to clean those up and keep people out of there because it’s unhealthy and unsafe,” Furey said, “and it’s really a problem for the community and people who live locally.”
Lieu, a former Torrance councilman who attended Monday’s City Hall event, said he’s confident the town will put the money to good use.
“It was my honor to serve on Torrance City Council,” Lieu said. “It’s where the rubber really hits the road, where you have to execute policies and you can help people directly — what Congress does is provide funding to local jurisdictions to help them help people.”
Lieu’s office also secured $1 million in federal funds to build a Youth Wellness Center in Redondo Beach and an additional $1 million for the Southern California Regional Occupational Center’s Workforce ReEntry Program.