For decades, Los Angeles has been referred to as the “homeless capital of America,” given its large homeless population. When the latest Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report showed that the nation’s homeless population decreased while homelessness in Los Angeles increased, many critics assumed the second largest city in America was simply continuing to earn its label.
But in 2013, there were some truly angelic efforts to reduce homelessness in the City of Angels, despite the debate over public feeding, homelessness in public libraries and Union Station, and the fact that the region has more than 58,000 people who are homeless.
So, here are the top 10 advances toward ending homelessness that Los Angeles made in 2013…
10 – A New Mayor. Months ago, Los Angeles elected a young, hard-working former city council president as its mayor. While campaigning, he promised to help end homelessness in the city. Homeless advocates are cautiously optimistic. Besides, his wife is a board member of one of the city’s major homeless agencies.
9 – A New Coordinated Entry System. It sounds like a control tower software program at LAX, but it is actually an innovative initiative on Skid Row, LA’s ground-zero of homelessness. It brings together the community’s homeless programs in order to make sure the most needy people on the streets access services and housing. More than 20 homeless agencies have participated.
8 – High Profile Angelenos Invest in the Cause. Sure, Tinseltown is famous for its celebrities who write seven-figure checks to their charity of choice. But some well-known names are doing more – they are getting involved in the work to end LA’s homelessness. Including LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant, actress Kristen Bell, and the scions of Conrad N. Hilton and J. Paul Getty.
7 – Public and Private Groups Work Together to House Veterans. Acknowledging the unique difficulties of housing homeless veterans in this sprawling metropolis, the VA of Greater Los Angeles partnered with private nonprofit organization PATH, and the Housing Authorities of the city and county of Los Angeles, to find, screen, support, and house 1,100 homeless veterans in the LA region. Such an effort has never been done before, but for those who were housed it was mission accomplished.
6 – Permanent Supportive Housing Becomes the Paramount Solution. Ten years ago, a New York-based group set up a local office in LA to promote a unique idea: give the most needy people on the streets an actual home and surround them with support services. Ten years later, the Corporation for Supportive Housing has provided assistance in building over 2,000 permanent supportive homes in Los Angeles.
5 – Numbers Make a Difference in LA County. From counting who is on LA’s streets, to prioritizing the top 50 most at-risk people on Skid Row, to housing 60 of the most vulnerable homeless veterans, the County has developed programs to systematically reduce the number of people living on its streets that continue to be highly effective in 2013.
4 – Rapidly Housing People Becomes a Trend. Building a new home takes years. Finding rental assistance and an apartment takes months. The 100K Homes Campaign, a national initiative to house 100,000 of America’s most vulnerable homeless individuals, came into LA this year to help create a “Rapid Results” strategy that would help people access rental assistance and place them into apartments within days, rather than months or years.
3 – Fewer LA Families are Without a Home. Despite the fact that there are more people experiencing homelessness in LA this year, there are less families in Los Angeles who are homeless. Programs like Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing, Family Solution Centers, and First 5 helped families move off the streets.
2 –Reduced Veteran Homelessness. Like homelessness among LA families, a reduction in the number of LA’s homeless veterans is a positive trend in the region. In 2013, the number of veterans living on the streets of LA dropped 23%.
1 – More Angelenos are Home for Good. Launched in 2010, the partnership between the United Way of Greater LA and the LA Chamber of Commerce created a bold initiative to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2016. As of the end of this year, they have helped their partnering agencies house 10,000 homeless Angelenos.