Officials with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) this week confirmed that the executive director of the agency is preparing to step down.
For the past five years, Peter Lynn has been in charge of overseeing the operations of LAHSA as well as delivering the agency’s reports on the county’s rising homeless population, which has increased 33 percent during his tenure, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Lynn will reportedly step down at the end of the month. Chief Program Officer Heidi Marston will fill in as interim head of the agency while a national search is conducted for a replacement.
Lynn said he plans to stay in the homeless field, but would like to be involved in initiatives that he sees as crucial but beyond the scope of LAHSA, which could include mental illness and substance abuse treatment, as well as reentry programs.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work there, and we have a long way to go,’’ Lynn said. “I think America, in general, provides really poor funding … for mental health, substance use treatment. And I will say, people are really suffering for that.’’
Lynn said he also plans to advocate for new housing models to address affordability, especially to replace the single-room occupancy hotels that have all but vanished in Los Angeles.
Lynn also said his decision to leave a job that paid him $242,000 a year was partly motivated by a nearly two-month medical absence after an August auto accident left him with a debilitating concussion. The time away allowed him to see things from a new perspective, he said.
Figures from the most recent Southland homeless count, released in June, found that more than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles, an increase of 16 percent since last year. Countywide, the homeless population jumped by 12 percent, to nearly 59,000.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn issued a statement saying Lynn “led LAHSA through an historic expansion, from a relatively small agency managing shelters, to a multimillion-dollar organization implementing both the county and cities’ homelessness strategies.’’
“This was never going to be an easy task but, nevertheless, he welcomed the challenge and his leadership of the agency was important, necessary, and appreciated,’’ Hahn said. “Homelessness across L.A. County has become more entrenched and more dire. This crisis demands a new approach that rises to the magnitude of this problem. It will be up to the next leadership at LAHSA to build on Peter’s work and ensure this agency can meet this challenge.’’