City of Los Angeles needs a ‘Department of Homelessness’

homelessWritten by General Jeff

DOWNTOWN- Earlier this summer, the LA City Council created an ad hoc Homelessness and Poverty committee. Because of the overwhelming need to address homelessness citywide, the committee was soon changed from an ad hoc to a permanent standing committee. 

Several months have gone by and it seems that, while Angelenos look to this new committee to provide solutions to homelessness, those of us who can see without rose-colored glasses know that this won’t happen any time soon.

In fact, watching the Homelessness and Poverty committee painfully sift through all the political rhetoric, confusion, and overlapping bureaucracy, it’s clear that what’s truly needed in city government is an all-new department called the Department of Homelessness.

After all, if there can be a Department of Aging…

The General Manager of this new city department will be like the often-referred to “homeless czar,” but without all the pressure. Duties would include being the city’s “point person” on all things related to homelessness, overseeing an initial staff of 10-20 city employees, reporting directly to the Homelessness and Poverty committee and the full City Council, and working directly with both the CLA (Chief Legislative Analyst) and CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) regarding all homeless-related budget items. This would include coordinating with the City’s Operation Healthy Streets, El Nino winter shelter programs and working directly with the Mayor’s Homeless Policy Director to craft new policies and initiatives that address homelessness.

An especially important task for this GM would be to represent the City’s interests regarding the City/County collaboration – the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA.) During last week’s Homelessness and Poverty committee meeting, LAHSA’s Policy Director gave a short report. When committee member CM Mike Bonin asked a clarifying question, the LAHSA policy person replied, essentially, that LAHSA doesn’t actually have any power.

Other than the Homeless Count, which LAHSA will now administer every year instead of every other year, it’s not exactly clear what this government agency with “authority” in its title does besides give millions of dollars to non-profit organizations to fund winter shelter programs for the homeless. This funding continues to go to the same non-profits who, combined, have not helped decrease the number of homeless.

It would be wonderful if this new GM could hold all of these folks accountable by assuming a position as the City’s in-house watchdog. We need to keep a close eye on all the homeless industry “fat cats” who are making off with millions of dollars while homelessness continues to rise at an alarming rate.  There are no signs of this trend slowing down and there are no viable solutions that are working to “End Homelessness” — the main marketing slogan for “poverty pimp campaigns” across America.

When one thinks about it, what motivation does a non-profit organization have to “end homelessness?”  If they end it, they will put themselves out of business, meaning no more six-figure salaries for those CEOs and Executive Directors — no more luxury cars, big homes and wonderful lifestyles for these privileged few who are supposedly caring for extremely poor homeless people.

This new department’s GM would finally give Los Angeles the ability to say, “There’s a new (homeless) sheriff in town.”

Hopefully, they would select someone with the heart of a champion and the undying focus of an infrared laser beam. Apparently, even though the world brags about having many of these types of folks around, homelessness can’t seem to find a single one.

America, who among you is capable of running this new Department of Homelessness? It would be different than running the Department of Homeland Security since it would take a little more compassion to understand the sensitive issues of homelessness.

City of Los Angeles:  We need a “Department of Homelessness”… it’s a solution at your door.

(General Jeff is a homeless activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.)

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