By Tex Yamada and Ann Nye —
Grace Farwell, Homeless Outreach Project Manager for South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), explained how Homelessness is one of six regional programs offered by SBCCOG. (Note, back in September, Jacki Bacharach, Executive Director of SBCCOG, spoke to us about their regional program South Bay Fiber Network Program.) SBCCOG represents an organization, with joint powers authority of 16 South Bay area cities and the County of Los Angeles that strives to improve the quality of life and productivity in the South Bay region.
Grace Farwell Speaks to the PV Dems
Farwell reviewed the passage of Measure H by LA County voters in 2017, which included a ¼ cent sales tax increase to raise about $355 million annually for ten years. Six areas were identified for this funding and the following steps are planned: 1- release draft of the recommendations June 26, get public input, and present final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on Sept 15th.
Proposition HHH, the LA City measure, was approved by voters in 2016 to issue $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds. The goal was to develop up to 10,000 supportive housing units for homeless individuals and families and provide homeless support services in the areas of mental health, physical health, education and job training, and drug and alcohol treatment. However, Farwell said progress in the construction of supportive housing units has been slow, prompting LA City Controller Ron Galperin to conduct an audit of Prop HHH in 2019. Reports attributed the project’s slow going to cost increases and construction delays.
Farwell also reported the South Bay homeless head count as of January 2020 breaks down as follows: 1,048 sheltered and 3,512 unsheltered. The total count of 4,560 represents a 3% increase over 2019 (4,388). Farwell expects city-specific data on the 2020 count to be released in July, but provided us this data summary of our Service Provider Area 8 (SPA-8).
SBCCOG works with LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and the LA County Homeless Initiative (LACHI), county agencies and other service providers in offering homeless outreach. Farwell said LAHSA is SBCCOG’s continuum of care and noted, “LAHSA is the one that keeps control of the funding and a lot of the services that are provided for to counter homelessness.”
SBCCOG’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) for our area, SPA-8, uses Harbor Interfaith Services to connect youth, adults, and families with existing regional programs like LAHSA, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), MHA-LA (Mental Health America – LA) and Sanctuary of Hope.
One of the more interesting Regional-focused programs discussed by Farwell was the home-sharing pilot project in partnership with Silvernest. This is an online matching program, using an algorithm to match homeowners who have spare rooms with individuals looking for a room to rent. “We’re looking for homeowners with one or two extra rooms and then matching them with home seekers, individuals who we’re trying to approach before they fall into homelessness,” she explained. This pilot project is subsidized by Measure H Innovation Funds.
Another Regional-focused program covered by Farwell is called the Safe Parking Program, which provides a safe and interim living space for individuals residing in their cars. The program would allow individuals to safely park their car in a lot overnight for sleep over a short-term period. Farwell emphasized the living arrangement is only temporary while the individual seeks permanent housing. “We’re really looking to work with one of our cities here in the South Bay to start this program,” said Farwell. “We are the only Service Planning Area (SPA) that does not have a Safe Parking Program.” This pilot project is funded by Measure H Innovative Funds.
Another way to help assist people experiencing homelessness in LA County is the online application LA-Homeless Outreach Portal (LA-HOP). If you observe someone experiencing homelessness, you can fill out the outreach request form on the LA-HOP app to alert Harbor Interfaith, the Coordinated Entry System (CES) lead, to deploy an outreach team to contact the person who is experiencing homelessness. Farwell cautioned us not to use the app for a family with minor children experiencing homelessness (have them call 211), or if there’s a medical and mental health emergency (call 911), or if the individual is couch surfing and temporarily living with friends.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, less people are staying in hotels, which Farwell acknowledged has helped Project RoomKey place more homeless in hotels. FEMA funds this program month by month and its guidelines are the client needs to be 65+, have underlying chronic health conditions and cannot self-isolate. Motels/Hotels in SPA-8 have partnered with Harbor Interfaith to supply three pre-packaged meals, take temperatures and provide health and mental health support for the homeless residing at their premises.
In parting, Farwell asks folks to visit the SBCCOG Homeless Services in the South Bay webpage for further information: http://southbaycities.org/programs/homeless-services-south-bay .