Recently, the City had to pay $750,000 in legal fees to attorneys representing the homeless community on Skid Row. And that in addition to paying the City’s own lawyers, and then providing the services they should have been in the first place! This is a travesty.
As your Council member, I would first start with ensuring that the City provides enough shelter beds, so that there are options and the City is meeting its requirements under the law. There are three things the City can also do immediately: 1) better training for LAPD officers to recognize mental illness, and respond to those issues in the homeless community, 2) more SMART (System-wide Mental Assessment Response Teams made up of LAPD officers with a mental health professionals) to respond to mentally ill homeless calls, and 3) coordinating existing homeless outreach providers, including county contractors and non-profits to respond/outreach to identified homeless individuals.
Through working in County governance, and at Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital and Community Health Center, I know that innovative solutions and coordinating services will go far in addressing the problem. The City has to work with the various agencies involved – LACDMH, LAHSA, the LAPD to ensure that resources are properly distributed, and there are no gaps. Part of this is reassessing and re-evaluating our SMART teams.
Eleven years and two mayors ago, the Mayor established a blue ribbon commission to “end homelessness in ten years.” I was there for that, and I believed that it could be done. What I learned at the County, and Kedren, is that the solution is not simply more handouts, or more money thrown at providers. It has to be a strategic, coordinated approach.