David McNew/Getty Images
A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk next to a prepared downtown lot where the new Los Angeles United States Courthouse was supposed to be built.
With over 40,000 people in its ranks, Los Angeles is considered by many to be the homeless capital of the country. For a variety of factors, including climate, competing policy and an overtaxed system, Los Angeles country has lagged far behind cities like Denver, New York and San Francisco, all of which have dramatically reduced their homeless populations with permanent housing built over the last decade. But here, homelessness has grown faster than the national rate and remained a singularly intractable issue. Now, there may be hope with the first-ever federal homeless program, President Obama’s Opening Doors, and coordinated local plans such as Home for Good—a plan that combines the social service knowledge of the nonprofit sector with the private business, and Project 50 and now Project 60—Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s pilot programs to get the most vulnerable homeless off the streets and into supportive housing. The plans share a new approach: get people into housing before you require them to seek treatment for any potential drug or mental health problems. Critics say it’s too little too late and these programs focus too exclusively on the most chronically homeless. With so many plans proposed and failed, what if anything sets these new ambitious models apart from the rest?
Barbara Poppe, Executive Director, US Interagency Council on Homelessness
Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor