Los Angeles Business Journal

Headway on Homelessness

OP-ED: Home for Good program’s reliance on sound business practices helps deliver gains on chronic problem. By Jerry Neuman and Chris Carey Monday, August 26, 2013

The Los Angeles Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness launched Home for Good two-and-a-half years ago. We vowed to end chronic and veteran homelessness in our region in five years. Today, the challenges are still substantial, the numbers daunting. But we have made solid, meaningful progress and we remain confident of success.

The 2013 count of homeless people in greater Los Angeles, reported at about 58,000, showed a small increase over 2011. This year’s count showed a substantial rise in “hidden” homeless, or people not yet living on the streets but in distressed circumstances (living in a garage, doubling up with family). Chronic homelessness remained nearly level and the veteran homeless count went down.

It is well worth noting, the total count would be above 65,000 had the system change and strategic partner alliance and activation we have fought so hard for not resulted in housing for more than 7,000 chronic and veteran homeless people since 2011.

Still, these most recent numbers are disheartening. Projected over the next two years, they are even more challenging. Given our still-slow economy, a reverse surge sending more troops back from overseas duty (many in physical and mental health distress) and the pressures created by an overall lack of affordable housing in our region, the next count could fairly be expected to rise still higher. But as profound changes in homeless policies and practices take hold, we project the opposite.

Why? Because Home for Good’s principles flow from sound, proven business practices.

With extraordinary determination, the entire homelessness sector – government leaders and agencies, foundations, non-profit housing and service providers, physical and mental health care professionals, business leaders, volunteers – has worked with the task force. The principles we champion have produced bold and dramatic changes.

Last year, the Home for Good Funders Collaborative leveraged $5 million in business and philanthropic donations into more than $105 million dedicated exclusively to permanent supportive housing. In a few days, we’ll do it again. Chronic and veteran homeless individuals make up about 25 percent of our homeless population and account for 75 percent of total expenditures on homelessness. By pooling private-sector donations with government resources (federal funds, housing vouchers, local government development and services funds), the collaborative generates maximum return on investment and focuses funds where they are most needed.

Smart money needs smart management. Working with our skilled partners on Skid Row, we have created a Coordinated Entry System, the first of its kind in our region. The system gathers and analyzes reliable data, merging real-time information about those in need with up-to-date information about resources available to meet their needs. In just 100 days, the pilot program on Skid Row moved nearly 30 chronically homeless individuals from street to homes with minimum bureaucratic delay and maximum use of data, but that’s only the beginning. By design, the Coordinated Entry System is modular: Any community seeking to reduce chronic and veteran homelessness can quickly and easily employ this efficient, effective system.

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