S.F. Hoped to Mandate Treatment for Up to 100 More Mentally Ill Homeless People. Years Later, No One Is In The Program

New data shows that a program in San Francisco to mandate more homeless people struggling with addiction and mental illness into treatment has largely failed, pointing to the city’s ongoing struggle to help thousands of people suffering on its streets.

Three and a half years ago, San Francisco started a pilot program to compel more people into treatment who met certain strict criteria. Officials estimated the program could help 50 to 100 people get housing and treatment for six months, but only three individuals entered the program and none remain in it today.

The problem is daunting. In 2019, San Francisco identified about 4,000 unhoused people who also struggled with addiction and mental illness. While many of those people could be helped with more voluntary treatment, some may be too sick to accept care. Despite progress in improving some aspects of the city’s mental health system, an unknown number of the 4,000 remain on the streets.

While the program was meant to help more of these people, in particular those impaired by drug addiction who aren’t covered under other forms of conservatorship, the reality is that the requirements were so onerous, few people met the criteria, according to the health department.

Since June 2019, the city has filed only four petitions for what’s called “housing conservatorship,” one of which was not approved. While other kinds of conservatorship exist, they too have strict requirements that limit who is eligible.

Of the three people who entered the new program, two were moved to another kind of conservatorship for people with mental illness, the city’s health department said Friday when it released its annual report on the subject. It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the third person.

The program — which sunsets at the end of the year —requires that someone has a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance use disorder and has been placed on at least eight temporary involuntary mental health holds, called 5150s, which send them to a hospital, within a year. The target population was also homeless. People must repeatedly refuse voluntary treatment first.

A law authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, allowed the city to launch the pilot program.

But Wiener said Friday his original law was hamstrung by a slew of factors. It got watered down by another piece of state legislation the next year, making it more restrictive. Next, the Board of Supervisors added more requirements during a contentious political debate. Logistics and paperwork delayed the implementation, and as soon as it got off the ground, the pandemic slowed progress.

“So not shockingly, not a lot of people have been conserved,” he said.

“It is so frustrating to me and so many San Franciscans when you walk down the street and see someone who’s clearly falling apart and dying, and you see that person every day falling apart a little more, and you wonder why is no one doing anything about this, why is no one saving their life?” he continued.

The report said 27 total notices have been delivered to 14 people informing them they’re on a potential path to housing conservatorship. There are no petitions waiting court approval.

The city’s health department said in a statement Friday that multiple barriers have hindered the program. They said those include limited referrals from partners, extensive documentation requirements and challenges receiving confidential patient records from private hospitals.

The health department said “stronger laws and more resources would make the San Francisco Housing Conservatorship programs a more effective tool” in the city’s system.

Wiener said he had planned to come back to the legislature this year to fix problems with his law, but instead is setting his sights on supporting a package of laws to reform a broader form of conservatorship, called LPS, that state Sen. Susan Eggman is planning to put forward. Wiener said he believes that with new leadership in the legislature, reforms will pass this year and help more people into treatment.

Mayor London Breed, who has lobbied for stronger conservatorship laws for years, supported a similar package of reforms last year.

Breed’s health department runs San Francisco General, which sees many of the patients who might be a fit for the program in its psychiatric emergency room and its inpatient psychiatric unit. People frequently cycle through the units because of a lack of long-term care.

The city also runs numerous street outreach teams – some to respond to people with mental illness and others who have just overdosed – where experts have the power to write mental health holds that would set someone on this path to conservatorship.

Recent data shows that in a majority of interactions with the team responding to mental crises, people in 57% of engagements remained in the community. In only 5% of cases were people placed on holds – a rate that two social workers told the Chronicle they felt didn’t reflect the higher need for hospitalization among their clients.

Critics say mental health holds and conservatorship should be extremely limited because it takes away people’s civil rights.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

SF Supervisor Says City’s $1.45B Budget Plan to End Homelessness Won’t Work

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman did not mince words during a sit-down interview with ABC7 News on Wednesday, talking about the city’s housing plan for the homeless.

Earlier in the week, Mandelman called on the Board of Supervisors to have a special meeting to discuss the report issued at the end of last year by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“We spend a huge amount of money in this city, not solving this problem,” Mandelman said.

The report was meant to be a direct plan of execution after the Board of Supervisors voted in June of 2022 to have the city offer all homeless people in the city a safe place to sleep.

RELATED: SF supervisors vote to create plan offering housing to every homeless person in city

It suggests spending nearly $1.5 billion over the next three years in addition to the money already expected to be spent.

That comes out to about $70,000 per shelter bed per year, according to Mandelman.

“That just seems like way too much to me. It’s more than other communities spend on shelter,” said Mandelman.

Mandelman thinks some of what’s proposed is wasteful and says the city can get rid of encampments for less.

MORE: Homelessness count rises in California despite staying steady nationwide, report finds

And Mandelman certainly isn’t alone. He tells me that quality of life issues such as homelessness are a top concern for both city residents and businesses.

Randy Shaw is the director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

He says he agrees with many of Mandelman’s thoughts and believes the city should cut down on the red tape surrounding the issue.

MORE: SF closes Tenderloin Center. What’s next for 400+ people who received services everyday?

“We have an emergency situation. We don’t have the luxury to say, ‘Well this luxury over 10 years will be a better investment’. We got to get people housed now,” said Shaw.

Mandelman maintains that the city can end unsheltered homelessness on our streets with the right plan and funding.

Click here to read the full article at ABC News

San Diego to Use $2.4 Million State Grant to Help 50 Homeless People Near Old Library

Part of the money will go toward securing the streets so the encampments do not return

In a new, focused approach to helping homeless people get off the street and into housing, outreach workers will begin engaging with about 50 people who are living in tents along six city blocks near San Diego’s former Central Library.

A unanimous San Diego City Council, with Councilmember Jennifer Campbell absent, approved spending about $2.4 million in state funds on the plan Monday.

In presenting the plan to council members, Hafsa Kaka, the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department director, said the effort will begin in about two months and will differ from traditional outreach work by providing a more intense and personal focus on each person’s individual needs.

“What happens with normal outreach, to be honest, is sometimes people will fall through the cracks,” she said. “These individuals (outreach workers) are intensively going to be following the people who have been identified.”

The grant will fund services ranging from outreach to housing for the approximately 50 people in the six-block area over the next two years, and some of the grant will be used to keep the area clear of future encampments once people are housed.

The focus will be on placing people into long-term permanent housing and also can be used to subsidize shorter-term bridge housing such as independent living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, placements with family members and supportive housing through California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). Clients who have been referred to permanent supportive housing may be placed in hotel rooms as temporary housing.

The approximately 50 people living in encampments within the six-block area represent a fraction of the city’s homeless population. A monthly count conducted in December by the Downtown San Diego Partnership found 850 people living in East Village, which includes the E Street area that will be the focus of the new grant. In all, the count found 1,839 people living downtown on sidewalks, in tents and in vehicles in December, the fifth straight month of a record high.

San Diego was one of eight California communities awarded a portion of the $48 million Encampment Resolution Funding Program in October, with 19 other communities receiving the grant funds earlier last year. The grants are administered by the California Interagency Council on Homelessness with a goal of finding housing for people living in specific encampments.

Kaka said the majority of people in the encampments are black women, and many are seniors. The outreach will address existing disparities in access to services in those populations, she said.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness has created ad hoc committees to address the growing population of senior homeless people and the disproportionately high percent of homeless people who are black, she noted.

Outreach teams will focus on F Street, E Street and Broadway between Seventh and Tenth avenues. The area includes the old Central LIbrary, the U.S. Postal Service and the Andaz San Diego hotel.

While not large geographically, some stretches have dense encampments. In recent days, the sidewalk on the north side of E Street has been filled with tents between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

District 8 City Councilmember Vivian Moreno supported the motion to allocate the funding, but said she was concerned about its focus on one neighborhood in District 3, represented by Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, while a part of downtown she represents has a growing homeless population,

“If you were to go there today with me, you would see encampments just lining up the streets,” she said about Commercial Street and other areas near the Father Joe’s Villages campus on Imperial Avenue. “They are not safe or sanitary for people camping there and it’s also not safe for people walking through the area.”

Moreno said the council had allocated $1 million to increase outreach in the area six months ago, and she questioned Kaka on how the money had been used.

Kaka said the city had submitted to the state an earlier funding application that did include Commercial Street, but it was not awarded. She said someone at the state advised her to submit an application that focused on a specific area in the next funding cycle, which led to the grant for the E Street outreach.

She also told Moreno that the $1 million allocated to outreach in her district has been put to use through People Assisting the Homeless.

Kaka said money for more outreach in other areas could come in the future, and the city and the county have discussed submitting a joint application to the state for the next round of funding.

Under the program adopted Monday, $1.2 million will be used for housing and flexible subsidies, and $950,000 will go toward outreach services for people in encampments.

The grant will provide $150,000 for support services to help people stabilize when they receive housing, and $116,500 will pay for administrative costs. Once encampments are cleared from the city, the grant will provide $30,000 to keep the area secure and prevent encampments from returning.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

LA County homeless count to begin with huge expectations, political tailwinds

The 2023 count in Los Angeles County runs from Tuesday, Jan. 24 through Thursday, Jan. 26

On the surface, the 2023 homeless count rolling out across Los Angeles County Tuesday through Thursday is an attempt to quantify the number of unhoused people and learn their locations, needs and status so that services — including temporary and permanent housing — can be provided.

But like rising tension in a Hollywood movie, this year’s count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority comes with tense foreshadowing. Factors include the governor’s move to connect the homeless with mental health services in “CARE Courts”; two emergency declarations made for the first time, one by the city of Los Angeles, and the other by L.A. County; and a Los Angeles mayor who is not waiting for a honeymoon period to tackle the problem on streets in the City of Angels.

Some say that, since the first count in 2005 which found 88,345 homeless people countywide including Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena, this year’s homeless count carries more weight. It comes after large disease spikes from COVID-19 have passed, though some cautions are still in place.

This time the count, again conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), unfolds amidst fevered anticipation from folks demanding action — in essence, wanting to know how this movie ends.

With more eyes watching, it packs a bigger political punch than any previous homeless count.

“Oh yeah,” said Jack Pitney, professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College. “They are raising the prominence of this issue and the political stakes will probably increase,” he said on Jan. 17.

Politics: Who will pay the price?

During the Los Angeles mayoral campaign, unsuccessful candidate Rick Caruso ran TV ads showing rows of homeless encampments, and he promised to add 30,000 interim housing units in the first 300 days if elected. Mayor Karen Bass, who edged out Caruso for the job, has launched her “Inside Safe” initiative that aims to clear encampments by moving the homeless safely indoors at motels and hotels.

She agrees with President Joe Biden’s goal of reducing homelessness in the U.S. by 25% in two years. She has begun moving homeless people off the streets, starting with Venice and Hollywood.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency on homelessness and vowed to work hand-in-hand with the city of L.A. All of these efforts, from the White House to Sacramento to L.A. County and L.A. city underscore the importance of this year’s count like never before, Pitney says.

If Bass fails, she could face a Democrat in a mayoral primary in 2026, he said. This holds true for the county supervisors and any other politician who may not move the needle on homelessness after making promises. “When they seek reelection their opponents will use their current statements as a baseline and say: ‘This officeholder talked about fighting homelessness in 2023,’” Pitney said. “It has the potential to raise a political problem.”

The Count: Pressure to improve

Volunteers will begin counting on Tuesday, Jan. 24 in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, while east and west Los Angeles will be counted on Wednesday, Jan. 25, followed by South L.A., central L.A. and the Antelope Valley which will be counted on Thursday, Jan. 26.

The count is run by LAHSA and is done at night. The timing and the dates are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Emily Vaughn Henry, deputy chief information officer for LAHSA.

HUD stipulates the count should be conducted in the last days of January each year. And HUD says counting at night is best because that’s when more homeless are on the streets looking for shelter. “That’s when you will likely find more people unhoused,” said Henry on Wednesday, Jan. 18

The purpose of a count is to get federal, state and local dollars to build shelters and housing, and to provide substance abuse prevention and mental health services to more of the unhoused population. It also helps government adjust resources to address the needs.

“It helps substantiate the number of people who are in need of substance abuse treatment and mental health services and interim, as well as permanent, housing,” said County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose First District includes Skid Row, the site of the region’s highest concentration of homeless adults.

Last year’s count also helps the county identify demographics. For example, the number of homeless who are Latino has been increasing, Solis said.

Yet things did not always go as planned and statistics lag. The 2021 count was canceled due to rising COVID-19 cases. And last year’s count was postponed until February. Results were released late — in September, which found that 69,144 people were homeless in L.A. County, a 4.1% rise from 2020, and 41,980 people were homeless in the city of L.A., up 1.7% from 2020.

Some interpreted the latest numbers as a flattening of the curve due to LAHSA and its partners who placed  84,000 people into permanent housing between 2017 and 2022. But others said the restrictions on volunteers who could not approach the unhoused during the count, coupled with problems from an app used to record data, caused an undercount.

This year, LAHSA is using a new app, and will provide pen-and-paper backup in case there are snafus, and is working with new demographers to improve results.

“Last year, a lot of people had questions if the numbers were reliable,” said recently elected Third District L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath on Wednesday. “This year, LAHSA has taken that to heart. Everyone involved will see an improved system to make sure our count has a regional aspect.”

However, the lack of volunteers is a looming problem. LAHSA in late fall last year set a goal of using 8,000 volunteers to perform the count. But one week out from the count, they had signed up just 3,307 volunteers and had lowered their goal to 5,000 volunteers.

“That would be enough, if we get to 5,000 I will be happy. If we get to 6,000 I’ll be happier,” said LAHSA’s Henry.

Undercounting is a concern

Jason, one of four adult men living in an encampment near the 210 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley, said he’s never been approached by a counting team and doesn’t think he was counted in past years. But he praised LAHSA for helping him find a shelter in Bell last year.

“They helped me out because they got me in a shelter, they gave me food. But I haven’t seen them in a couple months,” said Jason, 41, who declined to give his last name.

Homeless people such as Jason who are contacted during or after a count, and even given a voucher for a hotel or a shelter bed, can end up back on the streets for various reasons.

A study by the RAND Corporation, produced by its team from the RAND Center on Housing and Homelessness in Los Angeles, found that 41% of the homeless contacted in its study had been previously contacted by LAHSA — but were not recontacted to complete the intake process to get permanent housing.

“There’s a lot of engagement but not a lot of followup,” said Jason Ward, associate director of the RAND Center on Wednesday. “A high proportion said they were never contacted to move into permanent housing. Either people never came back, or people did and couldn’t find the individual.”

Solis characterized LAHSA as “bogged down with a lot of red tape.” She’s heard complaints from housing providers and those who provide other services that they face delayed compensation from LAHSA, which can turn away private businesses that want to help.

“We have to follow up,” she said, pointing the finger at LAHSA. “It is not just a one-off. There’s got to be more monitoring and tracking.”

The fast-approaching LAHSA point-in-time count is flawed in many ways, said Ward at RAND. First, it is only conducted one day each year, compared to RAND’s Los Angeles Longitudinal Enumeration and Demographic Survey (LA LEADS) project, which for a year sent highly trained professionals into Skid Row every two weeks, and into Hollywood and Venice every month.

Such intense and repetitive counting discovered 20% more homeless in those three areas — Skid Row, Hollywood and Venice — than the 2022 LAHSA count showed, Ward said. The RAND project took place from late fall 2021 through late fall 2022.

Weather, law enforcement sweeps and time of year affected the counts, he said. He said counting in January, when it is colder, may reduce the recorded number of unsheltered individuals because more stay in shelters than on the street.

While Ward said “both approaches have value,” his team will be releasing its updated count for those three areas within a week or two. “We see evidence of rapid changes, namely overwhelming growth (of homelessness),” he said.

Andy Bales, president and CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row, says he never calls it a count. “This is only an estimate. A one-time, best estimate, not a thorough count,” he said on Tuesday. “If everybody understands that going in, there will be much less disappointment.”

Solis said colder weather and recent rains may have pushed the homeless indoors, moving them toward couch-surfing, into shelters or tiny homes, or sleeping in cars or RVs — which makes them harder to count. She said the Board of Supervisors welcomes all data sources, not just the LAHSA count.

“We do have to consolidate and put data and coordination at the center of our efforts,” Solis said.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

LA city council approves $50M emergency fund for Bass to use at her discretion

Show of support for Mayor Karen Bass goes to her visible push to get encampments off streets

In a show of support for Mayor Karen Bass’ efforts to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis, the City Council voted on Wednesday, Jan. 18 to create and transfer $50 million into an emergency fund for the mayor to use at her discretion.

The funding, which passed by a 13-0 vote, would go toward Bass’ Inside Safe Initiative, which aims to bring residents of encampments indoors.

“We are in this crisis right now and we want the mayor to succeed,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said. “We want to do everything we can. Even though it’s a lot of money, it’s actually a drop in the bucket of what is needed and what will be needed for the emergency efforts.”

The money will help immediately pay for hotels, increase in staffing and providers who are conducting outreach, according to Matt Szabo, the city administrative officer. Szabo said that without access to the immediate funding, the city lacks the capacity to pay providers in a timely manner.

“The program has brought to our attention the need to have an account of flexible dollars that can be spent quickly without going through the standard process of appropriation from this body,” Szabo said.

The council last month approved Bass’ emergency declaration over homelessness, which will be evaluated monthly by several indicators of progress, including the number of encampments and housing placements, and how much more flexibility city departments are allowed through the declaration.

The declaration is scheduled to last six months.

Of the $50 million, $26.5 million would come from a general fund account for homelessness services and the remaining $23.5 million from funding previously set aside for COVID-19 response.

The council voted last month to end the city’s state of local emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of the month, with a motion by Council President Paul Krekorian noting that it “is appropriate to close this account and appropriate the funds for other emergency purposes.”

Mercedes Marquez, the mayor’s chief of housing and homelessness solutions, said the dedicated funding will help the city bring in more service providers and ramp up its outreach to residents of encampments. The goal of issuing the emergency declaration is to take steps toward institutionalizing a solution rather than launching pilot programs.

“We’re not going to get to something that has more permanent value and outcomes if we continue to do pilots,” Marquez said.

The city officials said the funding will also help Los Angeles fulfill its requirements under an expected settlement with the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, which sued the city and county in 2020, accusing them of failing to do enough to address the homelessness crisis.

The council on Wednesday also called for weekly updates from various city departments on outreach and other metrics related to homelessness. The council will also receive reports every two weeks on transactions and outcomes of the funding provided by the emergency account, and it will be briefed every 45 days on the progress of the Inside Safe Initiative.

“The state of emergency is not going to be a permanent state of emergency,” Krekorian said. “We’re going to use this emergency period in order to create solutions that will become permanent solutions.”

Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who chairs the council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, said that any programs developed during the state of emergency must be “enshrined in city policy going forward.” She hoped for solutions that enable city departments to address homelessness under non-emergency circumstances, without the “subversion of traditional oversight.”

The last time a mayor declared a local emergency related to homelessness was in 1987, when Mayor Tom Bradley cited the effect of winter weather on people experiencing homelessness, according to the declaration. The conditions now, the declaration claimed, are “even more dire.”

There are an estimated 41,980 unhoused people in the city of Los Angeles, up 1.7% from 2020, according to the latest point-in-time count.

According to Bass’ office, the Inside Safe Initiative will work to identify the “highest need encampments” that have a chronic and high demand for services, according to the directive. Using citywide coordination between various departments and agencies, the action plan calls for identifying interim housing and eventually permanent housing resources for each person living in the encampments.

Under Bass’ first directive on streamlining project approval, city departments must conduct all reviews and issue approvals for 100% affordable housing projects within 60 days. Once construction starts, the utility permitting and certificate of occupancy process must be completed within five days for affordable housing units and two days for temporary housing.

City Controller Kenneth Mejia supported the council’s decision and plans to build a dashboard to track the progress of the Inside Safe Initiative. Mejia told the council that it would highlight available resources and include “monitoring the trajectory of unhoused community members from interim to permanent housing.”

Click here to read the full article at the Los Angeles Daily News

These Are the Stories of Newly Homeless San Diegans

SAN DIEGO —  “I never thought this would happen to me.”

It’s a refrain heard often from people who suddenly fall into homelessness, and it’s being heard more and more these days.

For some, homelessness came about for economic reasons, such as with Robert Prokosh, who began living in his car when his rent went from $700 to $1,400 in one month.

Or it could be because of domestic violence, such as what Roberta Adams escaped from before moving into the San Diego Rescue Mission.

Or a job loss, which happened to Bobbie Bray, a former caregiver who now lives in her car in Oceanside.

For whatever reasons, more people are becoming homeless, and service providers across the county say they are seeing a surge in people seeking help.

Why are so many people falling into homelessness for the first time? There is no one reason. Ask five different people why they became homeless, and you’re likely to hear five different answers.

Aisha Hobson

Aisha Hobson, 41, pulls her 2017 Dodge Journey SUV into the Dreams for Change safe parking lot in Encanto around 8 p.m. most nights after finishing her work day and visiting her mother.

“When I come here, I try to decompress,” she said about her nightly routine. “My first few minute I pray.”

Hobson moved from Chicago to San Diego with her parents and siblings in 1994, and she has worked two jobs for much of her life. In 2020, she and her son and a friend were living in a three-bedroom El Cajon apartment for $2,450 a month, which she could no longer afford after her friend moved away.

Her son moved in with her mother, and Hobson began sleeping in her car because she couldn’t find another place to live.

Since then, she has earned a license as a pharmacy technician and is working at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest some days and the county’s Psychiatric Hospital on Rosecrans on others. Her schedule fluctuates from 40 hours one week to 48 hours the next.

“I make pretty decent money, but if I’m not hearing, ‘We don’t have a vacancy,’ I’m hearing ‘You have to have a better credit score.’”

Hobson is impressed by the many services that are available for people in need, but she feels that she is in the back of the line for help as a single person who is stable, sober and working.

“I’ve met some doctors who are homeless right now,” she said. “It’s hard to live in California right now.”

As someone who came from a stable family and is a working professional, Hobson is frustrated about her situation.

“The sad part is, even with the upbringing and doing things the right way, you still can fall, and sometimes you fall hard,” she said. “That’s the part that becomes frustrating. When you try to do everything right, and it doesn’t fall in place for you.”

Robert Prokosh

Sudden rent increases are not unique to San Diego.

Robert Prokosh, 68, was renting an apartment in Las Vegas when his monthly rent jumped from $700 to $1,400 in July. Unable to find another place and knowing it would not be possible to live in a car during a Las Vegas summer, he headed back to his hometown of San Diego.

“I grew up here,” he said. “I was raised here, went to school here. I owned homes in Linda Vista and Allied Gardens and San Carlos.”

Prokosh had moved away for work, and for years had a job as a tour bus driver before settling in Las Vegas. After the rent increase, he and his wife moved into the safe parking lot operated by Jewish Family Service in Mission Valley.

He’s not sure about his future plans. A few weeks ago, he had a heart attack at the parking lot, and a buddy drove him to a hospital.

“Now they’re talking about open-heart surgery,” he said. “They think I have a tear in my heart.”

Prokosh needs surgery, but said he is unsure when it could happen because the hospital will not schedule the operation until he has a place to recuperate other than his car.

Bobbie Bray

“It’s tough out here,” said Bobbie Bray, 60, who lives in her car in Oceanside. “It’s not for me. I don’t belong out here. I don’t fit in.”

Bray had her own cleaning business and was living with a family and working as a caregiver for a member of the household. After the woman she was caring for died last year, Bray said she got an apartment in Carlsbad, but was scammed out of $6,000.

“Everything from there just went downhill,” she said. “Any money I had in the bank went to hotels because I didn’t want to be homeless. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. I didn’t realize that was going to be very expensive, but my money just dried up.”

She began spending evenings in her car, but is only able to sleep a few hours each night out of fear.

“I’m never safe,” she said. “There’s always guys around my car, looking in. A few times they’d drive by and ask for sex. No way in heck. It’s not me.”

Bray has a grown son and said she had worked all her life and is looking for a job.

“I just need a place,” she said. “I work with a dog groomer as a bather, and I want to get another full-time job. I just want to work and have a place where I can lock the door and feel safe and cook something. I don’t care how big or how small.”

Delanie Bollinger and Mike Taveuveu

Oceanside couple Mike Taveuveu, 35, and Delanie Bollinger, 28, have been living in a car since Bollinger left her job about five months ago.

“I had a little apartment nearby, and I decided it wasn’t working out and I needed a little more freedom to figure out what I actually wanted to do before I get another job in six months to a year,” Bollinger said.

Taveuveu said he had been living with hissister and herfamily in Vista, but last year decided to move out to give them more space.

The couple said life on the street is not so bad, though Bollinger said she sometimes has second thoughts when nights are so cold she can’t feel her fingers or toes and her blankets don’t keep her warm.

“There’s days when I’m really blessed, and days when I’m like, man, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” she said.

While they acknowledge their homelessness was more of a choice than something that was forced upon them, they’re not sure how to get out of it.

Taveuveu said he will look for a job that is something he’ll want to do for a long time and can get him into an apartment, but he also knows it might be hard to make rent.

Bollinger said she doesn’t want to go back to a job she does not like, but knows that could be a challenge.

“There’s a lot of jobs, but most of the ones that are available are minimum wage, and minimum wage isn’t enough to afford a place here and afford food,” she said. “It’s not really feasible. It almost feels pointless.”

Taveuveu said he keeps a positive outlook.

“No matter what, good or bad, we just know that we’re going to make it,” he said. “It’s got to be better. It’s going to get better. Just stay solid, keep moving forward and upward, you know?”

Johana Dedapper

Johana Dedapper, 47, has one of the more unusual stories about becoming homeless.

After an unhappy career working in a bank in her native Belgium, she opened an Airbnb after her two children moved out, and she decided to live an adventurous life of traveling and attending music festivals.

She met an American man staying in her Airbnb, and they became a couple traveling to concerts across Europe. When his visa expired and he returned to the United States, he invited her to join him, and she arrived in the country Oct. 6.

Their travel adventures continued, and they were joined by a male friend. Her boyfriend suggested they attend a Katy Perry concert in Las Vegas and she agreed, though the singer’s music was hardly the type they had been enjoying together.

“He had a gambling problem and I didn’t know it,” she said. “In two and a half hours, he gambled all of his money and our money. My friend and me, we were trying to do everything to get him away from the table.”

She lost about $3,700, and all three were broke, and they spent the night in their car.

The couple’s travels continue, and they arrived in Ocean Beach last month.

Dedapper then experienced another side of her boyfriend she had never seen, as he began getting cash advances from his credit card and buying cocaine. She said he became verbally abusive, and one day a homeless person she had befriended intervened, and she began living on the beach with her new friends.

”I think they probably saved my life,” she said. “I knew it was getting dangerous.”

A chance conversation with someone from the San Diego Rescue Mission led to an offer to join their program. Dedapper said she realized this was an opportunity she had to take, and she enrolled in the year-long residency program in early December.

“After three days I finally stopped crying and I said, ‘Once I get back on my feet, I’m going to give back what you guys gave me,’” she said. “Not only that, but I’m going to help every one of my friends on the beach.”

Roberta Adams

San Diego native Roberta Adams, 62, has overcome addiction and homelessness in the past year, emerging from a dark place that resulted in a week-long hospital stay and three follow-up visits.

She described a past relationship as toxic, abusive and very drug-related, which lasted on-and-off for a few years.

While living in Hemet, she left the man she was with, entered a program to become sober, and for eight months lived in her own place.

“Then COVID hit, and the next thing you know, I’m getting high again and inviting him back in my life again,” she said. “It was the same drama, worse than any other time, and that continued until I made up my mind to let that sh— go.”

Adams has diabetes, and she said she would neglect to take insulin shots when using drugs. Her health was failing by the time a friend paid her Uber fare to drive her from Hemet to Perris, where she caught a Greyhound bus to San Diego and then took a trolley to Grossmont Hospital.

“I couldn’t even see straight,” she said. “I couldn’t even walk straight.”

Her health stabilized after a week in the hospital, but Adams had no place to go. She did not want to move in with her grown children, and she found herself suddenly homeless.

Some at the hospital suggested she go to the San Diego Rescue Mission, where she entered a year-long program that she graduated from two months ago. She’s now on a waiting list for permanent housing.

“I know that God is working in my life,” she said.

She has blocked the man from her past relationship from seeing her, and she plans to attend a Narcotics Anonymous group every day once she has her own place.

“I don’t want to relapse ever again,” she said.

Christopher Johnson

San Diego native Christopher Johnson was heartbroken earlier this year and made a choice. He had to get back to his children, even if it meant being homeless.

He and his wife and four children had moved to Fort Worth, Texas, four years ago so his mother could be near her grandchildren. But the marriage broke up, and his wife moved back to San Diego with their three youngest children.

Johnson said he fell into a depression, but began to healas he focused on reuniting with children.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune

Bass Wants to Bring Homeless People Indoors. Can She Secure Enough Beds?

Seated on the hard sidewalk along Cahuenga Boulevard, Rue Ryan arranged a batch of red roses she had plucked from the trash into a memorial for her “street mom,” Hyper, who died two years ago.

The work was an escape from the activity around her, as friends and fellow encampment residents hurriedly prepared to move into nearby hotel rooms, choosing what to keep or toss.

Outreach workers had counted about 25 people living under a 101 Freeway overpass in Hollywood, and on Tuesday, 11 of them went to one of three nearby hotels. A hot shower, a good night’s rest — these are luxuries housed people take for granted, Ryan said, and would help her find a job, some security and a permanent place to live.

“It’s dangerous out here. People are getting trafficked. People are getting killed,” said Ryan, a 32-year-old Alabama native. “You can’t sleep if you’re staying on the streets. So you’re exhausted. You’re not going to work. You look filthy and smell. Nobody wants to deal with you. How can you move forward in life? That’s why people get stuck out here so long.”

Ryan hoped to get a hotel room of her own as part of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ “Inside Safe” initiative, which Bass unveiled Wednesday, nine days after she declared a citywide state of emergency on homelessness. The declaration she signed Wednesday formally kicks off a determined effort to clear encampments by offering people such as Ryan hotel and motel rooms.

Fellow politicians, nonprofit providers and some activists have applauded the urgency and focus that Bass is bringing to moving people off the street and into temporary housing, from which social workers can help them find permanent housing.

In the first two weeks of her administration, Bass has sought to centralize the work of identifying encampments with the most vulnerable people and which are the biggest sources of frustration for nearby residents. She has also focused on identifying the steps in the process that delay people going indoors, or housing from being built.

What occurred at the encampment on Cahuenga was effective, providers say, because they had hotel rooms rented and ready for people to occupy.

“The pace at which Inside Safe can bring people indoors from encampments across the city will largely depend on the availability of beds,” said Cheri Todoroff, executive director of Los Angeles County’s Homeless Initiative. “What the city is doing that will likely be a game changer is accelerating housing placements, both in interim and permanent housing.”

More buildings master-leased — a process in which the city would take control of entire hotels or motels — means more people off the streets. But it remains to be seen whether the city can lease enough beds to meaningfully reduce or eliminate large encampments across Los Angeles.

Bass has made clear she wants to work closely with Todoroff’s bosses — the five Los Angeles County supervisors — appearing before them Tuesday to talk about the need for better partnership between the bureaucracies. The county does much of the funding and contracting of the outreach work taking place on city streets.

The county will be expanding some of these different outreach teams in the coming year, which will bolster the plans that Bass and council offices have to address large encampments across the city.

Still, providers say the work of gaining a homeless person’s trust to persuade them to move off the street is easier when a bed is available along with transportation to it. Case in point: A city Dash bus idled in position Wednesday, poised to ferry people to a motel once they were ready and had packed the two bags they were allowed to bring.

As people moved out of their makeshift structures, sanitation workers quickly moved in to throw away large items and dispose of what was left behind. Homeless people have often complained that this work by the Sanitation Department causes them to lose personal items and important documents.

Bass appeared cognizant of this broader challenge Wednesday as she highlighted how this effort on Cahuenga followed the approach that had been developed at large encampment cleanups across the city in 2021. She made clear that these operations weren’t being led by law enforcement and that she didn’t want to see homeless people ticketed or punished for living on the street.

“We know that there are specific motels where people can go to,” she said of the Hollywood cleanup and effort to move people indoors. “In the best of all worlds, what I would like to see is us to be able to do this citywide. But we’re not at that capacity just now. It’s going to take us a minute to ramp up. I think this is day nine or day 10 of me being mayor.”

Bass was flanked by outreach workers and social services providers at Wednesday’s news conference, where she signed the executive order. Among other things, it directs city officials to compile a report by the end of March that will “create a unit acquisition strategy, including master leasing for both interim and permanent housing options.”

The first goal, she sets out in the document, is to “decrease the number and size of encampments across the city.”

Bass’ emergency declaration, which the City Council authorized, gives her a lot more flexibility to quickly commit city funds toward leasing motel and hotel rooms. City officials said Bass currently has about $20 million at her disposal that could be put toward leasing beds quickly.

More funds could be made available to her, but that would require more input from the council.

Bass credited Va Lecia Adams Kellum, chief executive of St. Joseph Center in Venice, with helping spearhead some of this work.

Last year, Adams Kellum’s organization coordinated the outreach and renting of hotel rooms along Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where a massive encampment had sprung up, frustrating local residents and business owners.

The city gave her organization about $5 million to do that work, and more than half of the funds went to renting motels for more than 200 people. Much of the rest went toward staff to supervise the outreach and operations of the hotels.

That operation was delayed in part because Adams Kellum’s team had to wait for the City Council to sign off on the money being spent, recalled former Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represented the area and helped organize this work.

“There was a really drawn-out process then,” Bonin said. “Karen has the opportunity to say ‘let’s get moving’ and people will move. It’s a big difference from the usual legislative process.”

Both Bonin and Adams Kellum said the success of that work in Venice hinged on having beds available for people to quickly move into.

In an interview, Adams Kellum, who is on Bass’ transition advisory team, said that of the 213 people moved off Ocean Front Walk, 109 have found permanent housing. She added that it’s much easier to get people paired with a housing subsidy and into permanent housing if they’re indoors already.

“She knows housing has to be a part of it,” Adams Kellum said of Bass and her team’s work. “I know she’s lining that up because she knows you can’t go into an encampment sincerely without [the motel bed] in hand.”

Back on Cahuenga, Ryan waited for her case manager to arrive with her driver’s license — a delivery that continued to be delayed. Some of Ryan’s friends planned to stay on the street — uninterested in the offers of a hotel room. She had also seen some people lose items they cared about during the cleanup Tuesday.

Click here to read the full story in the LA Times

El Cajon Looks to increase Penalties on motels Constantly Calling the Cops Amid Homeless Voucher Concerns

El Cajon leaders have recently worried about how homeless people renting local rooms affect the area.

But after reviewing records at all hotels and motels, officials now have broader concerns about how often police and paramedics are visiting facilities throughout the city.

Council members advanced a measure Tuesday to develop a plan that could ultimately penalize owners that are constantly calling first responders, in an effort to discourage motels from accepting too many “high-risk people.”

“What we’re saying is: Be more mindful of who you rent a room to,” said Councilmember Steve Goble, who’s on a subcommittee that has been meeting with owners. “That’s what is driving calls for service; it doesn’t matter where they came from, it doesn’t matter who paid for the room.”

The council’s rough plan follows a months-long dispute with county and state leaders over how many homeless vouchers should be allowed in East County’s largest city. More facilities accept vouchers in El Cajon than other parts of the region and many renters are from outside the city, which officials have said puts undue strain on local resources.

There have recently been more arrests near some hotels accepting vouchers, although police data does not show an exact correlation between vouchers and crime.

The city initially threatened to fine places accepting high numbers of vouchers, but backed down the same day the state attorney general threatened to sue.

El Cajon has 16 motels and 2 hotels, which together have almost 1,000 rooms.

Officials said facilities shouldn’t have to call police or firefighters more than one time per room, per year. Said another way, a 10-room motel would ideally ask for help no more than 10 times a year, a standard detailed in a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Only four places are currently under that limit, officials said. Five were close to the line while nine were notably above.

The city’s analysis covered calls for service from both fire and police departments during recent 12-month periods.

After Tuesday’s 4-0 vote, staffers must now hammer out more specific rules for owners. Leaders said they would first warn, and work with, motels creating a “public nuisance” before threatening to revoke licenses.

Officials cast the plan as a way to ensure residents and visitors alike are protected. Goble gave an example of domestic violence victims from outside the city who use vouchers in El Cajon.

“Those people deserve a healthy, safe place to be while they’re escaping a dangerous situation,” he said.

Goble added that he wasn’t concerned the plan would discourage people from calling during real emergencies because four places had already found a way to meet the proposed standard without prodding from the city.

“You’ll be more motivated not to rent your room to high school kids to have parties, you’ll be more motivated to not rent your rooms for prostitution purposes,” said City Manager Graham Mitchell. “This program, if it’s set up right, will give them more responsibility to be selective of who they are renting to without being discriminatory.”

California’s attorney general had previously said fining hotels accepting vouchers was a form of income discrimination.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Morgan Foley said the new plan sidestepped that concern by focusing on renters’ behavior, not their source of income.

The changes could similarly pressure organizations issuing vouchers, like Equus, to ramp up the support they offer participants, officials said.

“If you’re a property owner and you’re allowing homeless vouchers — now, all of a sudden, you have an incentive to ensure that Equus, or whoever, is doing the wrap-around services,” Mitchell added.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

Giving homeless $500 and shelter has cut RV camps in Valley, may go citywide

City Council signals interest after Councilmember Monica Rodriguez says pilot program is succeeding in District 7

The Los Angeles City Council this week signaled its interest in potentially expanding an unusual pilot program underway in the San Fernando Valley aimed at reducing the number of homeless people living in recreational vehicles that have popped up along city streets.

The council voted 13-0 on Tuesday, Dec. 13, to request information from agencies involved in the pilot program, including an overview and associated costs, and to request from city staff a report on how the encampment reduction program might be funded citywide.

Piloted in Council District 7, the program was successful in removing 20 RVs off city streets and housing 25 homeless individuals, with another 12 enrolled and waiting for housing placement, between Feb. 1 and Sept. 15, according to Councilmember Monica Rodriguez. She represents Northeast San Fernando Valley communities including Sylmar, Pacoima, Sunland-Tujunga, North Hills and La Tuna Canyon.

Following the Tuesday vote, Rodriguez said she’s confident the approach will have positive results in other council districts.

“Angelenos have been rightfully concerned about RV encampments for years,” Rodriguez said. “This model (incentivizes) housing placement and permanently removes, not relocates, the issues to other communities.”

The goal is to give those living in RVs an incentive to voluntarily trade in their vehicles in exchange for temporary or permanent housing, by offering them $500 Visa gift cards. The result, supporters say, is that it not only provides individuals an opportunity to transition to housing, but it removes from the streets RVs that pose a risk to public safety.

Often, the RVs block visibility for drivers on the road and leak sewage onto the streets. Additionally, there have been incidents in which heaters or propane inside the RVs caught fire.

“It’s taking this systematic approach, which I believe has been incredibly beneficial to not only eradicating the RVs in the neighborhoods, but more importantly, getting these individuals to agree to leaving these facilities and accepting housing opportunities that are suitable to their needs,” Rodriguez said during a news conference last month.

The program in District 7 is the result of a partnership between West Valley Homes YES, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and LA Family Housing.

This week’s L.A. City Council vote directs service providers and city departments to write up a report outlining each agency’s role in facilitating the housing placement and the disposing of the RVs, as well as strategies for scaling up the program.

L.A. saw a dramatic 41% increase in the number of RVs on city streets between 2019 and 2022, according to Rodriguez’s office.

Kim Olsen, executive director of West Valley Homes YES, in a statement last month, spoke of the importance of a program that uses incentives to encourage people to voluntarily transition from living on the streets, instead of through force.

“Prioritizing agency and dignity rather than coercion is comprehensively effective,” she said, “and long-term success will come only with the provision of housing that meets those same standards.”

Click here to read the full article at LA Daily News

Do Neighbors of Sacramento’s New Homeless Center Have a Right to Be Unhappy?

Say a homeless man had run into your yard with a machete, yelling that he was going to kill you. To chase him away, “I helped him over the fence with my shovel,” said Ron Jellison, a 73-year-old former special education teacher who grew up just behind Sacramento’s Del Paso Regional Park and lives there still. This wasn’t a one-time thing, either. “I’ve been attacked three times on my property.” Or say a different man in a psychotic episode had broken into your barn across from that same park one winter morning, brutally attacking one of your beloved rescue horses with a claw hammer and killing your rooster, chickens and ducks. There is no morning, Dennis James says, when he doesn’t remember that awful day, and no morning when he doesn’t feel a fresh wave of apprehension as he reaches for the latch to let the ducks out. Or imagine that as you walked through the park one day, moving slowly on your cane, a man living in his car had come at you in a rage, then pulled a “baseball bat-sized limb” from a tree and started beating you with it. “It split my head open,” said 70-year-old John Mayfield, requiring 7 stitches and causing significant hearing loss. All of these attacks happened in the area just behind Sacramento’s new Outreach and Engagement Center on Auburn Boulevard, which since it opened in late September has been offering assessment and placement services, a shower and a sleeping mat to as many as 50 homeless people at a time. None of these incidents occurred since September, though. And it’s hard to say whether things have really gotten worse since then, or whether preexisting problems in the area are easy to pin on a program that neighbors never wanted and can’t help seeing as a magnet for more trouble.

Either way, I’m in no position to tell someone whose head was bashed in or whose horse was nearly beaten to death how he ought to feel. “We’ve not had anything catastrophic happen since they moved in,” said another neighbor, Charles Duckworth, which doesn’t mean that “90 days or 1 year or 5 years from now, somebody is not going to come out of there and do something in the neighborhood.” A few years back, said Duckworth, who is 72, “I had my front door kicked in by a homeless guy — a drunk guy looking for somebody. The city has ignored the park for 40 years.”

Jellison, who is one of the leaders of neighborhood opposition to the center, does not pretend that his concerns are new. “This is a generational fight,” in part over the city’s cyclical neglect of the park since way back when “a criminal element took over in the 50s. The drug culture, the human trafficking, the gangs were all here, and the homeless were just another layer on top of that.” Still, there have been “many more complaints” to the city from neighbors since the center opened, according to Hezekiah Allen, of Sacramento’s Department of Community Response. Why? For one thing, neighbors seem to expect the center to be doing more to get homeless people already living nearby off the street. But since the program is voluntary and referral-only, that’s not how it was set up to work. People camping in tents on the creek downstream from the center have nothing to do with the program, which does not take walk-ins except during extreme weather. But those living in the encampments clearly are responsible for the trash and needles and waste in the water. “They use it as their personal bathroom and wastebasket,” says Duckworth. Which can’t help but color how residents see the center.

On one of the neighborhood tours Jellison took me on, we interrupted a man whose legs were sticking out of the open passenger side door of the truck where he was parked with a young girl at the end of a residential street in the middle of the day. Trafficking in the neighborhood is nothing new. Neither are many of the other affronts to the sense of security of those who live here: The attack on Cindy and Dennis James’s animals was in January of this year. The attack on Mayfield was in February of 2020. The man with the machete ran into Jellison’s yard years ago. But anyone who’d had the experiences that these Sacramento County residents have had would have been scarred by them. And just as many homeless people are where they are as the result of some serious past trauma, so too have these particular opponents of the Auburn Boulevard homeless center been traumatized. Mayfield, who used to be a neighborhood ambassador for the park, mostly avoids it now. Dennis James is a lot more wary in general: “Every time I see someone walking down the street, if I don’t know who they are, I think, ‘Why are they here?’ I wasn’t that way before.” His wife, Cindy James, says her reaction to the new center is simple: “I think we should all chip in funds, buy a really nice tent and put it in front of the mayor’s house.” These are not uncaring people. “My best friend is 40 years sober,” says Duckworth, while someone else he was close to, whose addiction went untreated, died on the street. Yet the clash between these neighbors and the desperately needed center, run by other compassionate people, is the kind of conflict that continues to keep programs across the country from ever opening at all. So somehow, we have to figure out how to make situations like this work. Which is what neighbors and officials from Hope Cooperative, which operates the city-owned center, are in theory going to try to do at a community Zoom meeting on Dec. 13.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee