The Foundations Standing Behind the Mayor on Homelessness

Homelessness has been a defining issue for Mayor Garcetti during this final year of his first term, and he’s pushed for a 2 percent increase in spending on anti-homelessness programs in Los Angeles. For city officials in Los Angeles, homelessness is a political issue just as much as it is a financial one. The city’s homeless problems have been an enduring point of criticism that actually got worse during Garcetti’s first couple years in office. As we've learned, Garcetti’s plan to increase homelessness spending depends upon the success of selling city property and collaborating with private developers to create some much-needed low-income housing units.

Now a promising funder collaborative has emerged, and the city has agreed to essentially match the funding by streamlining the permitting process under a new permanent supportive housing program to expedite the housing and get these units built. The three funding powerhouses involved are the California Community Foundation (CCF), the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation. And they’ve put $16 million on the table in the form of loans and grants to leverage Mayor Garcetti’s proposal to invest a record amount in services and housing for the homeless.

Mayor Garcetti said in a statement:

If we are going to lift up unsheltered Angelenos and keep them off the streets for good, we need all hands on deck. And today, our philanthropic partners have risen to the challenge. Their generosity will help expand L.A.'s pipeline of permanent supportive housing, and support the growth of non-profits that will move this critical work forward. I fully support creating a streamlined process for building new permanent supportive housing, and intend to work with Council to make that a reality. We need all Angelenos to band together to get more people into the homes they deserve more quickly than ever before.

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is Los Angeles’ biggest hope for curbing its homelessness problem right now. Once housing is taken care of, the expectation is that other services can fall into place a bit easier. Specifically, the coalition wants the city to produce at least 1,000 PSH units per year, which represents a 700-unit increase from what we have now. To make this happen, Garcetti has committed to dramatically reduce development timelines for housing units from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside to South Los Angeles. He also says that the new program will allow the city to “define development performance standards with possible ministerial actions.”

“By moving frequent users of city services like jails, emergency rooms and shelters into apartments that provide much-needed social services, we’re helping our homeless neighbors stabilize and eventually become self-sufficient,” said Antonia Hernández, California Community Foundation’s president and CEO.

Skeptics of the plan have suggested that public opposition to the new housing units may be less if they cater to residents with a mix of income levels, not just the chronically homeless. But as history has shown us, that’s often easier said than done.

The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), a nonprofit community development financial institution, is managing the new loans and is already very familiar with working with all three of the foundations involved in this collaboration. We’re expecting to see some new grants coming from these funders as well and going towards building infrastructure to meet these ambitious annual goals. Nonprofits already involved in the effort include Mercy Housing California and Los Angeles Family Housing, among others.

Also of note, CCF, the Hilton Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation are all members of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home for Good Funders Collaborative. This collaborative, which is co-organized by the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, has kicked in over $650 million for local homelessness causes over the last four years. This is a group of over 30 public and private funders that have made strategic, collaborative investments in systems of change to end homelessness.

Funders interested in joining the collaborative are encouraged to contact Program Officer Zahirah Mann at zmann@unitedwayla.org for more information. Grantseekers from homelessness and housing nonprofits should take a look at the Home for Good grantseekers page because Round II funding opportunities are expected to be released this month.

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