Take Two®

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

You're paying more in sales tax now. Here's how it's helping the homeless.

by Leo Duran | Take Two®

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 01: Homeless people mill around on a Skid Row sidewalk after packing up their tents for the day and before businesses open on May 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. The newly released 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count indicates a 20 percent jump in the city of Los Angeles while Los Angeles County has spiked 23 percent. Voters have approved a record number of funds for homeless services with the passage of Measure HHH in the city and Measure H countywide. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) David McNew/Getty Images

Shoppers in L.A. County – check your receipts. You'll notice that the sales tax is a little higher.

The rate jumped 1/4 percent starting last Sunday, making it as high as 10.25 percent in some parts of L.A. County.

Voters approved the hike last March to help the homeless, and it's projected to raise as much as $355 million every year to pay for services.

"It's going towards jobs," says the Reverend Andy Bales with Union Rescue Mission, "and counseling, mental health counseling and addiction counseling."

He was part of the committee comprised of private citizens and stakeholders that made recommendations on where the money should go, with county leaders ultimately in charge of the purse strings.

Bales says the group wanted to combine those services with low-cost housing and health care facilities in a model called permanent supportive housing.

"But the challenge," he adds, "is that it can only go towards those things if permanent supportive housing units are allowed into neighborhoods."

In August, for example, Boyle Heights residents and city councilman José Huizar blocked the construction of a 49-unit homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

"We need the political will from all of our elected officials to stand up to the neighborhoods that might be saying, 'not in our backyard,'" says Stephanie Klasky-Gamer from LA Family Housing, which builds housing for the homeless.

Another ballot initiative passed by L.A. city residents in November, measure HHH, created a $1.2 billion bond with a goal of building 10,000 new units over 10 years.

The city is in charge of disbursing that money to private organizations looking to build, and Klasky-Gamer says people like her are looking to sites all over.

"We have a need in every corner of our city," she says.

Bales warns, however, that the pace to approve projects and follow-through on them is probably frustrating Angelenos.

"The public is not going to put up with this slow-rolling plan. They want immediate action," he says. "We need a quick fix."

Hear more about where the money is going and how to convince Angelenos to build homes for the homeless. Click on the blue player above. 


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