Today’s post comes to us from Donna Gallup, MSW, LSW, and Executive Director of Lamp Community in Los Angeles, CA.
Recent homeless counts have found that nearly 50,000 homeless individuals and families live in Los Angeles County on any given night. Chronically homeless individuals – homeless for a year or more and coping with one or more serious health, mental health and addiction problems – account for nearly 12,000 of that total; 6,000 newly homeless veterans also live in L.A.
Last November, an extraordinary report called Home For Good laid out a blueprint to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County by 2016. Lamp Community is proud to support the plan, based on 10 months of work by the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, a group of 22 organizations assembled by the United Way and the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. Home For Good’s goal is not only to find permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals, but also to provide intensive supportive services and treatment to help them regain their physical and mental health and self-esteem, and to help them reintegrate into the community. This is the work that Lamp Community has done for more than 25 years in L.A.’s Skid Row, which has the highest concentration of homelessness in Los Angeles. We at Lamp are happy to see the movement toward permanent supportive housing as a best practice for ending homelessness.
Think about what it would mean to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County – not to merely manage it, but to eradicate it with substantial long-term assistance that addresses the root causes of chronic homelessness. It costs the public “$875 million each year to manage homelessness in our region rather than end it,” including “use of emergency rooms, jails, shelters, and other crisis services,” Home For Good notes. Further, one quarter of the homeless population uses an estimated three quarters of the total resources addressing homelessness – approximately $650 million. Two recent studies cited in the report show permanent supportive housing lowers public costs by more than 40 percent.
At Lamp, we’ve known this for years. While it can cost taxpayers up to $65,000 to keep a single homeless individual living on the streets for a year, permanent supportive housing at Lamp – with its bevy of wrap-around services – costs only $12,000 to $14,000 per year, per person. More than 85% of those housed through Lamp maintain their housing for a year or more. Most are never homeless again and have the chance to become a part of their community.
Homelessness is a deeply complex issue, and hundreds of area organizations do important work helping people survive and move past a life on the streets. But service providers remain a house divided. We have to do better in Los Angeles, and that means working together on a cohesive plan like that laid out by Home For Good.
Home For Good’s goals are ambitious. But Los Angeles can no longer tolerate the ineffective status quo. We can only strengthen our local continuum of care by direct and regular collaboration among service and housing providers in conjunction with public and private partners. We urge our friends and allies to join this initiative and come together to end homelessness permanently in Los Angeles.