Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

$100M to spend on LA's homeless, but how to do it?

by Leo Duran | Take Two®

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A sign reading 'Skid Row' is painted on a wall next to the Los Angeles Mission, Sept. 22, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles' Skid Row contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles is spending $100 million to combat homelessness. Temporary shelters are getting the early attention with officials worried about people living on the streets with the impending El Niño rains.

However, there is a debate among homeless service providers over whether shelters are the most cost-effective long-term solution to ending the crisis.

"Permanent housing is the only thing that ends homelessness," argues Christine Margiotta, founder of the Home for Good program at United Way–LA.

Shelters can help people in the short-term, but they can only go so far without services to help people find a permanent home, too.

That may include subsidizing the security deposit of a new apartment or building affordable housing units.

"When someone is in shelter, they are waiting for permanent housing," she says, "so unless we invest in that infrastructure of permanent housing, they will continue to be homeless."

Reverend Andy Bales of Union Rescue Mission argues, however, that a focus on shelters is a better cost-effective measure.

"You can build permanent supportive housing and get about 108 units for 108 people, but it's going to take years to obtain the rights and then build that," he says with a nod to the current housing crisis also facing Los Angeles. 

"Or for $40 million, you can build two Union Rescue Missions and help 1,600 people at a time," says Rev. Bales.

Both agree, however, that the city's pledge of $100 million should only be the start of its commitment to ending homelessness.

"The biggest thing we need in L.A. is we need a change of heart," says Rev. Bales.

Margiotta adds, "The political will we're seeing out of the city and county is unprecedented."

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