LA County Supes join BizFed group to speed up deals for homeless services

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is joining with a countywide consortium of businesses in its efforts to address homelessness, hoping that an entrepreneurial bent will help cut government red tape and lead to faster delivery of services and housing projects.

Some of the biggest complaints from providers of healthcare services, and owners of motels that can be used for temporary housing, is the excessive regulations required to ink a contract. Or, if services are contracted, to receive timely reimbursements for their work.

“Their (business leaders) expertise, support, and input will help our county eliminate bureaucratic red tape and obstructions to services that provide both housing and healing,” said Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Specifically, the Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to partner with the Los Angeles County Business Federation, known as BizFed, which announced it was doubling down on a 2018 anti-poverty initiative with a goal of raising 1 million county residents out of poverty by 2028.

The group, which represents 235 businesses representing 410,000 employers in the county, is opening the boardroom doors to the county, as well as the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which have all declared the homeless crisis a local emergency.

“We’re fighting a humanitarian crisis together. The grassroots army of diverse business leaders we built over 15 years is now joining forces with the public sector,” said David Fleming, founding chair of BizFed,  in a statement released Tuesday.

For example, the joint venture will allow county representatives, nonprofit providers of homeless services and other governmental entities to collaborate during regular meetings with BizFed leaders, speeding up actions. Some of this includes finding ways to streamline hiring of personnel who provide contracted services.

“Business leaders have been identifying available land for shelters, putting affordable roofs over heads, getting people back on their feet and creating jobs for Angelenos. We’re now turbocharging this effort by bringing city and county leaders inside our war room,” said Tracy Hernandez, founding CEO of BizFed, in a prepared statement.

In 2022, the county established 720 units of interim or permanent housing in Boyle Heights, Compton, East Hollywood, Inglewood, Koreatown, Redondo Beach, Lancaster, San Pedro, Westlake, Woodland Hills and unincorporated Los Angeles, the county reported.

But many say that with more than 69,000 homeless in L.A. County, the effort is helpful but not enough.

L.A. County CEO Fesia Davenport said the county’s emergency declaration two weeks ago will help speed up county response. “It helps us contract faster. Hire faster. And provide services faster,” she said. Davenport also wants the county to work with the 88 cities in L.A. County to find land for possible homeless housing or shelters.

The county has begun working closer with the cities that have identified their homeless encampments. “They can identify what their issues are, and we can help figure out what can de done to address the encampment,” she said.

The partnership between business leaders and the city of Long Beach could speed up efforts underway there since the city declared a state of emergency on Jan. 10, said Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, in an interview Tuesday.

The city has housing vouchers to give to homeless individuals but it needs cooperation from local motel and hotel owners to temporarily house them.

“Unless you have motel owners who are willing to accept them, we have nothing to do with those vouchers,” Richardson said. He said that if a contract between a proprietor and the city dragged on for a month or so, the city could make up the difference in lost revenues to the proprietor.

He said the renewed relationship with BizFed was a good idea, especially when looking at the broader picture.

“The homeless crisis wasn’t manifested by government alone. We are talking about the rising cost of housing, inflation impacting people’s ability to keep a roof over their head,” Richardson said.

Andy Bales, president and CEO of Union Rescue Mission, talked about the difficulties his organization faced when it built interim housing for women and children at Angeles House in South L.A. “We ran into lots of red tape,” he said, and his organization was successful despite many challenges.

“It is a great time to have the business community step up and bring in more resources,” Bales said on Tuesday.

The county’s CEO, as well as other department heads, will work with BizFed on contracting issues, job training and matching industry jobs with county hiring needs, the motion said.

Related links

LA County homeless count to begin with huge expectations, political tailwinds
LA County supervisors declare homeless emergency
Long Beach declares local state of emergency on homelessness
LA County’s homeless agency hires CEO with blessing of Mayor Karen Bass
Homeless count: Experts tweak methodology this year, but it remains a mammoth task

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