Board considers restructure of county homeless authority

Some cities poorly represented

City News Service | 2/14/2020, midnight

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to rethink the structure of the lead agency responsible for battling homelessness: the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

“I believe something has to change,’’ said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “If not ... my cities are going to feel that they are not being represented fairly.’’

LAHSA was established in 1993 in response to a lawsuit filed against the county by the city of Los Angeles, which felt that the county wasn’t doing its share to solve the problem. A joint powers agency governed by a commission with five county and five city appointees, it manages more than $400 million annually, including roughly 70 percent of all Measure H funds.

Barger said many city leaders have complained that LAHSA focuses too much on the city of Los Angeles rather than taking a countywide perspective.

When Measure H—the quarter-cent sales tax assessed to help fund housing support services—was passed in 2017, the board chose to have LAHSA administer the funds going to service providers rather than setting up another layer of bureaucracy. The county could now choose to manage the money itself, though the board originally determined that would be less efficient and possibly less cost effective, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

However, the supervisors agreed that things have changed dramatically over the last three years.

“LAHSA clearly grew exponentially just in terms of what they were being required to do,’’ Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “We have really pinned the problem of homelessness on them.’’

Hahn suggested that LAHSA is not nimble enough to effectively address the full scope of homelessness.

“I have felt a lack of urgency,’’ Hahn said. “The bureaucracy that it is there has not been flexible enough to grow and change and adapt.’’

She shared a story about her own staff stepping in to rent motel rooms for homeless individuals in Whittier when they were unable to get the help they wanted from LAHSA.

A report is expected back in 60 days.