Mayor Bass launches ‘Inside Safe’ to tackle LA’s street homelessness


BY LINH TAT |  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Los Angeles Daily News

KarenBassDec30-2Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Wednesday, Dec. 21, launched her “Inside Safe” initiative to move people living in tents and homeless encampments off the streets and indoors and to keep such encampments from popping up again.

Bass has insisted the program will entail outreach workers going to encampments to talk to individuals about housing options and support services they’re eligible for, and that people won’t be forced or coerced into moving. At the moment, people most likely will be placed in temporary housing in hotel or motel rooms until more permanent housing units are built.

“People should not be left to live and die on the streets because the city isn’t giving them someplace to go,” the mayor said at a news conference at The People Concern, a social service agency in Central L.A. where she signed an executive directive to launch the Inside Safe Initiative

“Today, we are giving people safe places to move inside, with ongoing support, so that they can stay inside and safe for good,” she said.

Until more permanent housing units become available – which Bass said should not take more than a year – the mayor insisted that those facing homelessness will receive immediate “quality” housing.

“It’s not our desire to move people from a tent into a slum,” she said.

In response to a question about whether police would be called upon to relocate people under the Inside Safe initiative, Bass said her program is not intended as a punitive measure against those living on the streets and that Inside Safe’s approach is different from Municipal Code 41.18, the anti-camping ordinance passed by the City Council that allows homeless encampment sweeps.

“This is not about cleaning up and clearing out. Of course, that will happen in the context of it, but this is about outreach to people and getting them housed,” Bass said.

“It’s going to take awhile,” she later added. “You might need to talk to a person more than once. But we are focused on getting them housed and services, not on law enforcement.”

Veronica Morrison of St. Joseph Center said during the press conference that she is living proof that programs like Inside Safe can work. Morrison said she came to St. Joseph after becoming homeless, and since then she’s been an outreach worker, peer specialist — and now a program manager at the center.

People facing homelessness may be at their most vulnerable, Morrison said, but they deserve another chance.

“They don’t know how to trust. They don’t know how to just allow someone to help them … but just because they’re vulnerable, just because they’re outside or whatever their situation is, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need a chance,” she said. “Everybody deserves a chance because you might have fallen on hard times and had nowhere to turn.”

Inside Safe, which Bass last week estimated would cost less than $100 million to roll out, will target its outreach where encampments are most chronic and where people are most in crisis.

A coalition of representatives from various city departments, the City Council, county officials, service providers, community organizations and others will design and implement a strategy to expand the Inside Safe initiative citywide.

The initiative itself will be headed up by Mercedes Márquez, the mayor’s chief of housing and homelessness solutions, and will include a cabinet made up of the general manager from the city’s emergency management department, the CEO of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city’s chief administrative officer and the general managers of various city departments.

Bass has directed members of the cabinet to provide her with an action plan report by March 31.

Va Lecia Adams, president and CEO of St. Joseph Center, said those involved in the initiative are considering all pathways to creating permanent housing, from permanent supportive housing to master-leasing buildings, shared housing and other options.

Permanent supportive housing provides a people with roofs over their heads, but also focuses on services that address mental health illness or drug addiction — and other help.

“For too long, we’ve just said it’s one option, it’s one way,” said Adams. “It’s permanent supportive housing, only we know that can be expensive, and we know given the crisis and emergency, we need to move  … much more swiftly.”

Wednesday’s mayoral executive directive was Bass’ second one as mayor. She declared a state of emergency on homelessness her first day on the job nine days ago and, last Friday, signed her first executive directive to fast-track the approval and construction of affordable housing projects.

At last count, the city had nearly 42,000 homeless Angelenos, though some believe the figure is an underestimation.


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