In Los Angeles, the mayor has announced a 10-year, $2-billion plan to address the city’s 44,000 homeless people. While the plan involves several key elements, homeless advocates wonder: Will those elements be effective?
This issue interests me as both a resident of Los Angeles and a volunteer and philanthropic partner of the Los Angeles Mission. While critics cite its pros and cons – including the mixed reviews about how it should be funded – the plan does contain three components that are critical to addressing the homeless population.
It calls for affordable housing
It’s common sense that to stay out of homelessness, people need homes they can afford. Accordingly, the plan involves providing affordable housing– this means housing that requires no more than 30% of a family’s income. It’s important to keep in mind, however, just what that figure is. Thirty percent of $125,000 a year is a reasonable $37,500. But 30% for a family making only $20,000 is a mere $6,000.
Knowing this, there needs to be affordable housing options for the working poor, including public housing and Section 8 housing. There also must be options for people who have mental or physical impairments that prevent them from working. Having affordable options, instead of offering long-term rental subsidies to those who could work if given the right training, is key to a long-term solution.
It calls for outreach
The plan also outlines the need for concerted outreach. According to Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission, right now there are a lot of small groups doing individual projects and outreach efforts throughout the city, but they are not well coordinated.
In addition, many agencies are at maximum capacity just handling internal operations. They do not have the bandwidth to put staff on the street to reach out to people in tents and parking lots. Resources are needed to get the homeless into shelters and housing. As Smith asserts, the “right” of homeless people is not to be free to live on the streets. It’s to have ample shelter so they can come in off the streets.
It calls for teaching employable skills
Many people experience homelessness because they do not have employable skills, or they suffer from mental health issues or addictions. Therefore, the plan calls for any “permanent supportive housing” to offer the proper level of services. The Los Angeles Mission has transitional programs like FreshStart to equip people to live independently by giving them a sense of self-worth and value. There are also programs that allow people to address and solve the core issues that have prevented them for attaining employment and housing. In addition, the Mission’s Career Services department and its WorkStart program help people write resumes, prepare for interviews, and secure work, which builds their confidence and empowers them to succeed. Addressing the lack of education and opportunities behind homelessness is imperative to any plan to eliminate it.
As controversy remains about the mayor’s plan and how it can be funded, the Los Angeles Mission continues providing emergency, recovery, and transition services to homeless people throughout L.A., Big Change Advisors continues supporting the Mission.
Steve Pomeroy is the founder of Big Change Advisors, an M&A consulting firm in Los Angeles focusing on middle market companies in the IT services space. Since 1992, Big Change leaders have completed over 36 transactions including M&A, Capital Sourcing, and Public Offerings representing over $800 million in total transaction value. Big Change Advisors donates a percentage of all fees to help serve the homeless through the Los Angeles Mission. To request a free consultant, contact us.