The Key to Ending L.A.’s Homeless Crisis

November 17, 2016
The Bowers family overcame homelessness with the help of permanent supportive housing and the Future of L.A. Fund.

Photo by Sam Comen

This giving season, we are highlighting innovative approaches to the most pressing issues facing Los Angeles County. Our investments in these solutions are made possible by the Future of L.A. Fund.

Samantha Bowers giggles and darts around the table, as her father Matthew gives chase. In this apartment, she feels happy, safe and comfortable. In this apartment, she is home. “It’s not a shelter,” Matthew said. “It’s a place to ground yourself, to set roots. We feel like we’ve won the lottery.”

Matthew, his wife and three daughters live in the Amistad Apartments in Lincoln Heights. Residents there pay a fixed percentage of their income in exchange for permanent supportive housing, which combines long-term affordable housing with critical services such as job training, case management and access to health care. The Amistad Apartments are operated by A Community of Friends, a nonprofit organization committed to ending homelessness for low-income families and individuals living with mental illness.

Our image of homelessness has grown from a man standing at the freeway exit with the familiar “Please Help” sign to a legion of men, women and children in every corner of Los Angeles County. Approximately 47,000 L.A. County residents are homeless on a daily basis – enough to fill Dodger Stadium. When the number of people who cycle in and out of homelessness over the course of a year is included, that figure rises beyond 100,000.

They are working parents, unable to make ends meet. They are children, young adults transitioning out of the foster care system and veterans who need medical attention to help battle mental illness or addiction. They are our brothers and sisters, our parents, our sons and our daughters.

Giving a few dollars or a meal can help treat the symptoms. Permanent supportive housing can drive systemic change and end our homelessness crisis.

Not only is permanent supportive housing effective, it’s affordable. The Economic Roundtable calculates that it can cost the government and taxpayers $63,000 annually in emergency room visits and police calls for one homeless person. Permanent supportive housing can reduce those costs by almost 75 percent.

The California Community Foundation is committed to addressing the root causes of L.A. County’s most urgent issues. This year, we partnered with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Weingart Foundation and Kresge Foundation to provide $23 million in loans and grants to accelerate the development of permanent supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles. In partnership with experienced nonprofit housing developers and lenders, the foundations will help create at least 1,000 units per year, more than tripling current production.

We joined with other organizations to call upon the the city and county governments to create new local revenue streams to fund the increased production of these units and to build upon Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s executive directive to dramatically reduce timelines for development. This month, voters passed a $1.2 billion dollar bond for permanent supportive housing in the City of L.A., and a similar measure will be on the L.A. County ballot in March.

We are not alone in our call for more public investment. A Community of Friends CEO Dora Leong Gallo believes the crisis has taken on greater urgency given the growth of homelessness across Los Angeles. “Communities are starting to see homelessness impact their neighborhoods like never before – from Brentwood to Pacific Palisades to South L.A. and San Pedro,” Dora said. “People are concerned and demanding solutions. The nonprofit community continues to be at the forefront of advocacy in the quest to end homelessness.”

CCF and our partners believe that solving L.A. County’s housing crisis is more than just civic good, it is a moral imperative. Our neighbors across the county deserve to live with autonomy and dignity. Permanent supportive housing is a way to get them there.

Back at the apartment, Matthew Bowers sweeps Samantha up in his arms, and they fall back onto the couch. “There’s never a day we take this for granted,” Matthew said. “Our kids love their beds. They love their room. They love the great memories they’re gaining by growing up in a community.”

The California Community Foundation is able to invest in permanent supportive housing thanks to the Future of L.A. Fund. Built by generations of visionary donors who understand that community needs change over time, the Future of L.A. Fund allows donors to make an impact on L.A.’s most pressing issues for generations to come, whatever they may be. Learn more about CCF’s work at calfund.org/annualreport.

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