Fighting Homelessness: New White House Effort Zooms in on California

Fighting Homelessness: New White House Effort Zooms in on California

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass with Jeff Olivet, the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness along with service providers and government partners to discuss federal policy regarding homelessness and substance abuse. 
WRITTEN BY
 LILA BROWN | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA

On May 18, the Biden-Harris administration announced the launch of ALL INside, an initiative designed to address homelessness across the country.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and its 19 participating federal member agencies will partner with state and local governments in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix Metro, Seattle, and California to implement the program.

Ambassador Susan Rice, the White House director of domestic policy, unveiled the program alongside Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough, the chair of USICH; and USICH Executive Director Jeff Olivet. Rice praised the efforts of Los Angeles Mayor, Karen Bass along with California’s Secretary of Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, Lourdes Castro Ramírez, for being on the front lines of ending unsheltered homelessness.

The partnership aims to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025.

“President Biden firmly believes that everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to live, and from Day One, the Biden-Harris administration has taken unprecedented actions to lower housing costs, increase housing stability, and address homelessness,” said Rice, pointing out that many residents facing homelessness include military veterans and youth who have aged out of the foster care system.

“This first-of-its-kind partnership with our Administration will help strengthen and accelerate local efforts in these sites, and communities across America, to ensure every unsheltered person has accesses to the housing they need,” she added.

Several of the ALL INside communities have already received federal resources, with Los Angeles receiving $60 million and other areas in California receiving $36 million.

Leaders from the each of the cities receiving funding were recognized for their clear vision, commitment, alignment of value and effectiveness in tacking the challenges of homelessness by providing holistic solutions.

The federal funding for Los Angeles and other cities in the state comes nearly two months after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $1 billion in homelessness funding for California cities and the launch of a new state program that will build small homes for formerly unhoused people.

After Newsom rejected plans from California cities to address homelessness last November, mayors of the state’s largest cities have now agreed to reducing homelessness by 25% by 2025 in each of their jurisdictions.

With an estimated unsheltered homeless population of 115,000, California is home to nearly half of the people living on the streets, in parks or in other public spaces without permanent addresses in the United States.

Proponents of the All INside program say California state authorities working in tandem with cities such as Los Angeles proves that a “whole-of-government, all-hands-on-deck” approach will assist communities to directly reach residents.

Rice said Bass prioritized homelessness even before her first day in office, recognizing Los Angeles’ first woman mayor commitment to the stubborn crisis that continues to plague California’s largest city.

“This is a historic memorandum of understanding with our cities, said Bass, who directed attention to the work of Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, who leads as the CEO of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). ALL INside will accelerate Inside Safe’s services already in operation.

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“Inside Safe is the way that we have been eliminating street encampments by moving people into motels, but that is a very difficult model to sustain,” continued Bass, describing the challenge of moving people into motels before having to place them into permanent, supportive housing.

“The idea that we, as participating in this (MOU), might be able to look at things like presumptive eligibility that would allow people to be housed right away-instead of spending months while we compile documents and verify that they are in fact in need,” Bass said.

The launch of the multi-city federal investment in fighting homelessness builds on historic support by the Biden-Harris Administration to help states and cities in their local efforts. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) -- which represents the largest single-year investment in ending homelessness in U.S. history -- helped prevent a surge of homelessness.

Through the Treasury Department’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, the six ALL INside sites have invested more than $2.5 billion in projects focused on reducing and preventing homelessness. Additionally, the ARP provided $5 billion for 70,000 Emergency Housing Vouchers, which are the first U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) vouchers specifically for people experiencing homelessness beyond veterans.

The ARP also delivered over $21 billion in emergency rental assistance, standing up a first-of-its-kind national eviction prevention infrastructure that has helped 8 million struggling households make rent and pay utility bills, and kept eviction filings below pre-pandemic levels in the 1.5 years after the end of the eviction moratorium.

Castro Ramirez said California-being is only state listed among cities that are beneficiaries of the program because the Golden State has a proven track record of building strong foundations.

“We’re focusing on these Californians because there is a pronounced need and profound opportunities to join forces and take real action,” said Ramírez who described why California is focusing on housing and prevention programs on its most vulnerable populations comprised of unhoused veterans, foster youth, and older adults.

“Gavin Newsom has made solving homelessness and expanding affordable housing top priorities since day one of his administration. We’re addressing this issue with urgency,” Castro Ramirez stated.

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