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“L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says city-county homelessness agency ‘needs to function better’”
Written by Dakota Smith
In a pointed criticism of one of the region’s largest agencies overseeing homelessness issues, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said leadership at Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority needs to “go up to the next level.”
Garcetti, who in his campaign for mayor vowed to end chronic homelessness in the city, said he wants to “invigorate” LAHSA.
“The Homeless Services Authority, which brings the county and city together, has to function better and has to work directly on (homelessness), and that’s what I am putting my focus on,” said the mayor in an interview over the weekend.
“I think I’ve turned a new page in the city-county relationship, and we are looking forward to bringing the right leadership at LAHSA into that entity. Someone has to own the ending of homelessness as their mission.”
Garcetti made his remarks on Saturday during a visit to the Los Angeles Mission in the city’s Skid Row. Asked to clarify whether he would advocate a change in LAHSA management, he said, “(It’s) establishing the right leadership in place. I mean, we’ve had very good people, but I think it needs to go up to the next level.”
Established in 1993, LAHSA is a joint city-county agency that administers federal and local dollars to shelters and homeless services throughout the region. Executive Director Michael Arnold has held the position since 2009. The agency is overseen by a group of commissioners, appointed by the county and the Los Angeles mayor. All of the current city-appointed commissioners were picked by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
On Monday, Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman declined to elaborate on the mayor’s remarks. George McQuade, a spokesman for LAHSA, also declined comment, and messages left for numerous commissioners were not returned.
There are nearly 40,000 people living on the streets and shelters of Los Angeles County, according to figures released earlier this year by LAHSA.
In recent months, homelessness has received renewed attention from both Garcetti, who launched a bid last month to eradicate the plight among veterans, and downtown City Councilman Jose Huizar, who last week helped announce a program aimed at Skid Row cleanup and services.
Additionally, Huizar wants the city to explore creating a “homeless czar” position at Los Angeles City Hall to oversee coordination among various city agencies. He said the city’s approach to dealing with homelessness has been “sporadic” and that City Hall initiatives are usually crafted following litigation against the city over homeless issues. “We need to be proactive,” said Huizar, who is running for re-election to represent the Eastside and downtown.
Garcetti is “open to the idea” of a czar but indicated that leadership on the issue should be coming from LAHSA.
Relations between the offices of Huizar and the mayor have been frosty at times since a friend of Huizar ran a series of negative advertisements against then-candidate Garcetti during the mayoral race. Still, both have said they are committed to working together to combat homelessness.
“There’s no rift,” Garcetti said of his relationship with Huizar, adding that he’d recently been to the Getty House for dinner.
Pete White, co-executive director of the advocacy group Los Angeles Community Action Network, said he hadn’t seen enough movement on homelessness from the city, county or LAHSA. LAHSA is praised for overseeing regular homeless counts, but the agency has also faced criticism for not taking a more aggressive approach to the problem. White said both the city and county need to spend more money on services for the indigent.
“Until the city and the county does its part to provide additional resources, this problem is going nowhere,” White said.