Every night more than 48,000 people in Los Angeles County sleep on the streets because they do not have a place to call home. Los Angeles has the unfortunate distinction of being the epicenter of the nation’s homelessness crisis. That’s why the Chamber partnered with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and last week launched Home For Good – a five-year strategic plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Los Angeles.
Home For Good is aimed at the 12,000 chronically homeless Angelenos who have been homeless for more than a year and have serious mental or physical health problems. This includes approximately 1,400 veterans – an increasing number of whom are soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. By implementing a new strategy, we can provide life-saving opportunities for the chronically homeless and at the same time free up resources for those in need of transitional services.
The plan’s foundation is to build a network of permanent supportive housing at locations throughout L.A. County. These homes – often indistinguishable from “regular” housing – would include on-site mental health, medical and substance abuse supportive services. This “wrap-around” services approach dramatically increases the rate of success in keeping people from going back to the streets.
Home For Good will also save taxpayers millions of dollars. Los Angeles spends $875 million each year under our current system. Studies show that we can save $280 million each year under a new plan that prioritizes permanent supportive housing, because the chronically homeless are no longer cycling through the justice system, emergency rooms and receiving ad-hoc care without a long-term strategy for success.
Best of all, this plan is proven to work. Cities like Denver, New York, Seattle and Atlanta have all dramatically reduced their homeless population through permanent supportive housing – and at a fraction of the cost of keeping them on the streets. While drafting Home For Good, our task force visited with leaders in those communities to evaluate their best practices and lessons learned.
We’ve done the research and have already begun laying the groundwork with local elected officials and agencies that serve the homeless.
The months ahead are critical to getting Home For Good off the ground. The biggest challenge is to make sure that the City and County of Los Angeles work together to implement the strategy.
Together we will push federal officials for a change in the federal funding formula for homelessness assistance that puts L.A. at an unnecessary disadvantage.
We need your help. On Dec. 1, 2010, we will ask business leaders, faith organizations, non-profits, elected officials, organizations and people like you to commit to this plan. Visit our website and read Home For Good, then lend your support by committing to this plan.
Together, we can end chronic homelessness, get people off the streets and save millions in taxpayer dollars. Most of all, we can help thousands of our fellow Angelenos find the hope, dignity and opportunity that all of us deserve – a home for good.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary Toebben is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.