Los Angeles Homeless Agency Has Deep Operational Failures, Audit Finds

Los Angeles’ homeless outreach agency – intended to move hundreds of homeless individuals from the streets into housing, shelters or treatment facilities for mental health and substance abuse – has failed dramatically to meet the goals of its contract with the city, according to a new audit by City Controller Ron Galperin.

Galperin’s audit found that despite twice the number of outreach workers in the last two years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority missed seven of nine goals in the 2017-18 fiscal year and five of eight during the last fiscal year.

“The goals that were set by the city are not unreasonable,” Galperin told The Los Angeles Times. “Quite frankly, they are [setting a] pretty low bar to begin with. If you can’t meet the low bar, that’s a problem.”

Outreach workers were supposed to place 10 percent of the homeless individuals they assessed into permanent housing. Last year, workers placed only 4 percent into permanent housing. Additionally, workers only placed 14 percent of individuals into shelters, short of the 20 percent target.

For referrals to treatment, workers placed 6 percent for substance abuse and 4 percent for mental health. Both of those categories had 25 percent goals.

A spokesperson for the agency stated part of the problem is that city staff can’t place people into shelters or housing that isn’t built or is blocked. Additionally, the spokesperson said federal privacy rules prevented the authority from accurately reporting treatment statistics and, as a result, the agency no longer uses the 25 percent goals.

In its 2019 homeless count, the agency reported there were close to 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, with approximately 36,000 within city limits. Over the past two fiscal years, the city paid more than $10 million to the agency, while the county contributed $44 million.

“You look at when civil emergencies happen around the world. This is what we have on our streets right now,” Galperin said. “Unfortunately, the city is not treating it quite as the emergency it is.” (Source: Los Angeles Times, August 27.)

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