Homeward Bound: the History, Impact and Future of Proposition HHH and Measure H

March 7, 2018

Every night, nearly 60,000 men, women and children in Los Angeles County go to sleep homeless. Over the course of a year, that number climbs to more than 150,000, enough to fill the Rose Bowl, the Staples Center, the Forum and the Hollywood Bowl. Exactly one year ago today, Angelenos came together to say “enough” and bring their neighbors home.

On March 7, 2017, L.A. County residents voted overwhelmingly to pass Measure H, which dedicated more than $350 million for programs and services to prevent and fight homelessness in Los Angeles County. In conjunction with the City of Los Angeles’ Proposition HHH, which provides $1.2 billion to build 10,000 units of affordable and supportive housing units for the chronically homeless, it represents the largest investment in ending homelessness in the history of L.A.

How did we arrive at this moment? How were Angelenos from every neighborhood and segment of society brought together in support of these initiatives? What lessons can we take from this process as we attempt to address the broader housing crisis facing Los Angeles?

Today, we’re looking back at how we got here, what has been achieved and what is still left to do. First and foremost, we achieved this together. It took a cross-sector partnership of local funders, nonprofits, businesses, community leaders and the City and County of Los Angeles, all working together toward a common goal.

“It was inspiring,” said Tommy Newman, director of public affairs at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and special consultant to the H/HHH campaigns. “Government, business and labor, philanthropy, homeless service providers, neighborhood councils and developers all saw this as a priority.”

Each member of the coalition brought their own skills, resources and networks to the campaign. Thousands of volunteers knocked on doors, attended community meetings and raised awareness. The campaign sent out 100,000 hand-written postcards to voters across Los Angeles.

The response was incredible. People in every part of Los Angeles felt a personal connection to this crisis. They understood that everyone benefits when homeless Angelenos get the shelter and services they need to thrive. As a result, both measures passed with more than two thirds of the vote.

“We’re fortunate that Angelenos have been so passionate and generous in responding to the crisis,” said Miguel Santana, who served as city administrative officer for the City of Los Angeles during the campaigns. “It’s really now on us to make sure it actually happens.”

In the first year, seven projects began development with HHH funds, totaling 615 units, and today there are more than 1,400 in the HHH pipeline.  Thanks to Measure H funding, thousands of chronically homeless Angelenos were placed in supportive housing and provided with case management, physical and mental health care, employment assistance and other services proven to be effective in helping residents to thrive. Thousands of at-risk residents took part in rental assistance and other programs to help keep them from every becoming homeless in the first place.

And in December, the City of Los Angeles adopted the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee, which will raise more than $100 million annually to double the city’s affordable housing production.

But while the impact in the first year of both measures has been impressive, many challenges still stand in the way. The permitting process for constructing new affordable housing is complex, expensive and time consuming. Recent changes show a willingness to streamline it and there have been innovative partnerships to provide organizations with the capital they need to navigate the process. But there is still much work to be done.

Having the resources to build new units is one thing, but if neighborhood residents block construction, then construction can’t begin. Overcoming these fears and objections requires both sides to engage in honest dialogue, addressing local concerns while acknowledging that we all have a role to play in the drive to end homelessness.

Most importantly, we must remember that our homelessness crisis is a symptom of our housing crisis. As rents spiral upward and wages stagnate, more and more Angelenos face the prospect of losing their homes. Any lasting solution to this issue involves taking on this crisis head-on, expanding the production of affordable housing, preserving existing units and increasing economic opportunity and support to ensure that all Angelenos have a place to call home.

The commitment represented by H/HHH is a tribute to the passion and compassion of Los Angeles residents. It shows a unity and a willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for all Angelenos. Today, we take a moment to celebrate that spirit, and renew our determination to ending homelessness in L.A.

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