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Mayor Bass needs to be critical of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

In fiscal year 2020, the third largest city contractor in Los Angeles, ranked by contract value, was the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

LAHSA received $107,096,025 from L.A.’s city budget, just part of the more than $800 million in federal, state, county and city funds that the regional agency receives annually to manage the “Continuum of Care” programs intended to provide shelter, housing and services for homeless individuals.

LAHSA’s failures have been documented beginning well before the pandemic. A report from the L.A. city controller in 2019, which cited the homeless authority for falling short of homeless outreach goals, led to an investigation by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD audited LAHSA’s Continuum of Care program and reported in January 2022 that there were significant problems: LAHSA allowed $3.5 million in federal grant funds to expire by failing to spend the money. The inspector general’s report also criticized LAHSA for improperly spending $879,847 of Continuum of Care funds on payroll and rent costs.

As the crisis of homelessness has worsened, elected officials have called out LAHSA’s failures. Then-Councilmember Joe Buscaino wrote in an April 2021 op-ed for this newspaper that LAHSA should be ended, citing reports that apartments with services sat empty for months while more than 40,000 people slept on the streets. Buscaino also noted LAHSA was failing to effectively carry out the core function of street outreach and that service providers had not been paid on time.

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Less than two months ago, the L.A. City Council voted to explore having a third party conduct a new count of L.A.’s homeless population and a multi-year audit of LAHSA’s previous counts. Some council members called for a council-by-council report on housing interventions and strategies over the last five years.

Newly elected L.A. Mayor Karen Bass has created a cabinet of department heads to report by March 31 on how to move forward to address the homelessness crisis, and her cabinet includes LAHSA representatives. Unless there is an acknowledgement that LAHSA has failed in all the tasks of management, oversight and leadership for which the agency is already responsible, this is the very definition of “business as usual.”

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