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Lancaster City council pushes for more homeless funding

Antelope Valley transient population has increased by nearly 400 percent

OW Staff Writer | 2/7/2014, midnight

At a recent meeting, upon returning from its closed session, the Lancaster City Council directed the City Attorney to look into options to compel the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to provide the Antelope Valley region of L.A. County with an equitable share of funding.

“A full 13 percent of Los Angeles County’s homeless population is here in the Antelope Valley, yet our homeless service organizations receive only 2.1 percent of LAHSA’s total funding. This compares to downtown Los Angeles, which has 19 percent of the homeless population, yet receives 50 percent of the funding,” said Vice Mayor Marvin Crist. “In fact, over the past few years, LAHSA has cut our funding by 10 percent. Meanwhile, our region has experienced a nearly 400 percent increase in our homeless population. Keep in mind, the next largest increase in another area’s homeless population was 65 percent.”

The LAHSA’s governing commission is made up of ten commissioners, half of which are appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and half by the mayor of Los Angeles.

“Because the makeup of the board is stacked to support the urban areas of Los Angeles, the Antelope Valley is not only neglected, but virtually ignored for social service funding. Make no mistake about it, this produces human tragedy. We are not a beach community! With bitter cold winter temperatures, and sweltering summers, people die,” said Councilman Ron Smith. “Even though we are the area of greatest need, the LAHSA leaves us with the smallest amount of funding for our citizens who need it the most—only 2.1 percent. LAHSA can no longer ignore the people who are in need of the most compassion and help.”

Los Angeles County is divided into eight Service Planning Areas (SPA’s), with the Antelope Valley area termed as SPA 1. SPA 1 also serves one-third of all foster youth for the entire Los Angeles County. A high rate of youth homelessness often results from emancipated foster youth, yet the county provides no funding for homeless youth.

“Lancaster continues to unite with organizations throughout our valley to seek practical solutions. We’re already working with Palmdale to seek ways to assist the homeless population in our area—40 percent of which are veterans who have fought for our freedom. In fact, we’ve both partnered with Grace Resource Center to host a men’s emergency homeless shelter at the A.V. Fairgrounds during the winter months,” added Vice Mayor Crist. “We’re doing what we can, but we are so geographically spread out it’s simply not enough. The truth is, the problem of homelessness will be very hard to remedy without the necessary available funds.”