LA City Council approves new money for tackling homelessness

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As part of a larger promise to commit $100 million to the city's growing homeless problem, the L.A. City Council Wednesday voted to spend just over $12 million on supplying housing.

"As soon as the ink is dry on that paper, we’ll begin hiring, we’ll be going out, we’ll be issuing vouchers, and we’ll be changing people’s lives, and thats what it’s all about," said Booker Pearson, a commissioner on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), a joint county-city agency that will administer the money. 

The council's resolution allocates $10.1 million from the city's general fund to house around 1,000 people using new rental subsidies and other forms of financial assistance. About half of that will be dedicated to homeless veterans.

Mayor Eric Garcetti had pledged to bring the homeless veteran population to what's called "functional zero" by the end of the year. Officials now say it'll take additional time to house current homeless veterans and develop a system to deal with veterans who fall into homelessness in the future. 

As of the last estimate in August by the United Way's Home for Good program, which is spearheading that effort, L.A. County has over 2,600 homeless veterans. LAHSA's last citywide census of homeless counted about 26,000 total homeless in Los Angeles. 

The majority of the money will go to permanent housing options. 

"Housing first works--we know it," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supported the move. 

"These resources are the type of resources that are federally proven in many many models of housing first," Pearson said. "And there’s also resources there to provide emergency housing for people until they become housed."

Lawmakers hope the rest of the money, which will go to new shelter beds, will help address safety concerns as El Niño storms approach. 

LAHSA's plan for the money adds 440 beds to L.A. County's winter shelter program, raising the total of seasonal shelter spots to about 1,500 around the city and county.

To find people in need and provide the services, LAHSA officials said they'll be working closely with local nonprofits like St Joseph's Center in Venice and the LAMP Community center, where city leaders announced the new plan. 

The city also plans to send workers to at risk areas like river beds and storm drains to look for homeless who are particularly vulnerable to flooding. 

The move allocates money the city council had previously set aside in November, and comes after of a September announcement where Mayor Garcetti and other city leaders pledged the city would spend $100 million to combat Los Angeles' homelessness epidemic — an effort the Mayor's office says is ongoing.

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