Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

L.A. County Enhances Interim Housing Standards for Homeless People

But Will Higher Standards Make It More Difficult for Cities to Provide Homeless Services?

The County of LA adopted an inspection program to ensure that housing facilities for the homeless are clean and responsive to needs of residents. The official COLA press release follows below.

We asked Olga Zurawska, an advocate for the new legislation, whether higher standards will make it more difficult for cities to provide shelter to the homeless. She wrote back to us:

First off, the standards are a moral necessity as homeless clients have been mistreated and abused by service providers for a long time, on the public's dime.

For years the City of Santa Monica has been ignoring serious complaints from shelter residents by saying that the City does not get involved in disputes between clients and homeless service providers.

Another excuse was that the City or City commissions do not deal with individual cases or individual providers like OPCC - even though the reality is that OPCC is the only homeless service provider in Santa Monica other than the tiny shelter for students. Both these excuses were used while the City disbursed massive public funding to OPCC ($1.6M per year) thus enabling the organization to operate outside the law, which is unconscionable and a violation of the City's fiduciary duty to the residents.

Now with the County supervising and overseeing the service providers, the shelters should start operating within the law and therefore it will be justifiable for the City to dispense public funding to them.

The City bears the burden to oversee its social services. With the County now supervising and overseeing the quality of the homeless services, and providing enforcement which was nonexistent before, it will make it easier on the City to assure the provision of legitimate social services by the nonprofits which have not been held up to standards before.

The County ordinance is long overdue.

The County and City of San Francisco passed similar measures including a shelter monitoring committee a decade ago. Santa Monica wants to be seen as a progressive City yet it has been stuck in the dark ages as far as the quality of its social services goes, with ongoing health and sanitation issues, warehousing of homeless clients, and civil rights violations including senior neglect and rampant disability discrimination. -- Olga Zurawska

L.A. County Enhances Interim Housing Standards for the Homeless

(County press release)

Bolstering the countywide movement to combat and prevent homelessness, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today approved an ordinance to establish a new public health permit and licensing requirement to ensure uniform Countywide standards for interim housing facilities that serve people experiencing homelessness.

The ordinance is the first element in a three-pronged approach to strengthen the coordinated system of interim housing, which includes: establishing uniform facility standards; implementing service standards across all publicly-funded interim housing; and instituting a uniform grievance and complaint process. These recommendations stem from a six-month collaborative process convened by the County Chief Executive Office/Homeless Initiative, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Public Health, in conjunction with people who have experienced homelessness and nonprofit operators of interim housing.

The enactment of this ordinance will allow the Department of Public Health - Environmental Health to implement a new inspection program to ensure that interim housing facilities comply with applicable health and safety requirements, as well as requirements that are specifically tailored to this type of temporary housing. The public health permit ordinance covers 7,700 beds in 327 interim housing facilities, of which 234 are publicly funded and 93 are privately funded.

"My commitment to protecting the health and safety of L.A. County residents extends to individuals who seek temporary shelter in our interim housing facilities," said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. "As we work to expand interim housing options for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, we must also ensure that new and existing facilities meet health and safety requirements. This ordinance will enable the Department of Public Health to ensure the quality of our interim housing facilities, especially recuperative care housing."

"With this ordinance, we will ensure that Los Angeles County remains a standard bearer for accountability and performance, especially when it comes to serving the homeless," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed the development of uniform shelter standards. "Our goal with Measure H has always been to create communities where everyone can live with dignity and purpose, and this includes shelters and other interim housing facilities."

"As we expand our interim housing we want to make sure that the buildings reflect the standards we've set for achieving our goal of stabilizing the lives of those experiencing homelessness and assisting them in their journey toward permanent homes," said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. "We are expanding interim beds quickly, and we need to ensure quality as well as quantity."

"Many families who we are working to lift out of homelessness will spend time in interim housing before moving into a permanent home, and we have to ensure that these are clean, safe places to live," said Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"Ensuring that health and safety standards are met in interim housing facilities improves the wellbeing and long-term outcomes for those attempting to rise out of homelessness," said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

For more information on the Interim Housing ordinance, please click here.


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