Imagine you’re homeless. You live in a tent in a park. You don’t have any real income or transportation. You hear that a nonprofit has services that may help you get out of homelessness, or maybe an outreach worker told you about a housing opportunity.
You then panhandle to get on a bus to access badly-needed services. You arrive early to avoid any lines. The person at the front desk gives you a bunch of paperwork to fill out.
It’s the same paperwork you filled out the last time you tried to get help with a different agency. And the time before that. You wait several hours until your name is called. A case manager outlines the intake process with you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be placed on a waiting list. If you’re really lucky, they’ll give you bus tokens so you can get back to your tent. But chances are, you’ll have to panhandle to get back to where you feel safe to sleep.
All this to just do it again the next day, and the next, and the next. Panhandle for bus fare. Fill out the same forms. Wait for hours in a lobby to be called in to have an intake done. Placed on a waiting list — and that’s only if you’re lucky.
The homeless services system does not make it easy for someone to get out of homelessness. We place an extreme amount of the burden of acquiring support on a person who has limited resources and is fighting to survive.
We Need Better Support Solutions — Vote Yes on Measure H
I have traveled to different cities and interviewed hundreds of people experiencing homelessness. The one constant in every situation is the insane amount of times a homeless person has tried to access services for help, yet didn’t get the support needed. This creates Learned Helplessness.
Learned Helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.
You may remember Jossalyn. She has been on the streets of Los Angeles for 15 years. I have wanted nothing more than to help her get into housing.
I researched and found all the right places to go. I shared the referral information with her. However, Jossalyn has a mental illness and suffers from anxiety. Besides not having money or transportation, she cannot sit in an office waiting to be seen.
After a long conversation with her, I realized the only way for her to get help is if someone came to her and helped her navigate through the bureaucracy.
It is unrealistic to support an approach requiring a person with no income, no transportation and potential mental illness or drug addiction to travel to service agency locations to receive help. But that’s been the model in homeless services for a long time. Set aside the fact that many agencies in a Continuum of Care (CoC) help with specific needs; so a client has to travel to different locations to obtain assistance with both housing and healthcare, for example.
Sometimes agencies will have an outreach team that can transport clients between services. However, this is not cost-effective as you have staff from one agency waiting with a client to be seen by another agency.
An Effective Solution Is Producing Results — Vote Yes on Measure H
In my last post, I believe we can end homelessness, I wrote about the disconnect that exists between homeless service agencies. I also addressed how the City of Los Angeles and LA County, along with many other stakeholders have made significant improvements in communication and collaboration to develop a community-wide solution to ending homelessness.
C3: City, County, Community program is a key example of how City of Los Angeles and LA County are finding creative ways to build systems and reduce barriers to save lives and taxpayer money. C3 is a multidisciplinary and multiagency program made up of a dedicated team of service providers from the County’s Department of Mental Health, Health Services, Substance Abuse Prevention & Control, as well as Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and Americorps staff.
Instead of the unrealistic approach of having homeless people travel to services, C3 brings the services to the person in need. These teams include a nurse, a mental health clinician, and a substance abuse counselor. Because it is multiagency, barriers created by bureaucracy are greatly reduced. The homeless person gets the help they need right away and at an overall lower cost.
I recently joined the original C3 team on Skid Row. It is very exciting to see the model in action and experience the community collaboration. Learn more about how the C3 team effects change in this short interview with Sara Shortt, Director of the C3 Program on Skid Row.
Being able to deliver all services a homeless person may need rather than having them travel to different offices is invaluable. And it is producing results. In 2016, the C3 team on Skid Row was able to house 158 people and connected 326 more people to housing who will be getting indoors soon.
Measure H Will Help End Homelessness — Vote Yes on Measure H
The next step is implementing C3 teams throughout Los Angeles County. Measure H is the catalyst needed to achieve widespread results, ultimately saving lives and ending homelessness.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has placed Measure H on the March 7 ballot. Funded through a proposed ¼-cent County sales tax, Measure H would generate approximately $355 million annually to be used exclusively on these proven efforts that reduce and prevent homelessness.
If approved, Measure H will help an estimated 45,000 families and individuals move from homelessness to permanent housing within the first five years. It would also enable 30,000 more to avoid becoming homeless.
By voting YES on Measure H, you will help support an initiative that provides resources people with permanently disabling conditions need.
By voting YES, you will help ensure valuable resources are allocated sensibly.
By voting YES, you will help end the homelessness crisis that is certain to grow if changes are not made.
Help people get off the streets and save their lives. Vote YES on Measure Hon March 7.
Watch the C3 Team on Skid Row in action. This video includes a tour of Skid Row Sobering Center, another city and county collaboration aiming to end homelessness. In addition to helping patients get sober, restart their lives and find transitional housing, the sobering center provides appropriate care for inebriated individuals who would otherwise be brought to emergency care facilities.