Funders and Government Team Up in L.A.'s Latest Run At Homelessness

Homelessness has been a defining issue for Los Angeles Mayor Eric 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 the city. For city officials, 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 intensified during Garcetti’s first couple of years in office. Garcetti’s plan to increase homelessness spending depends upon the successful sale of city property and collaboration with private developers to create some much-needed low-income housing units.

Now a promising funder collaborative has emerged, and the city has agreed in essence to match the funding by streamlining the permitting process under a new permanent supportive housing program and thereby expedite construction. The three funding powerhouses involved are the California Community Foundation (CCF), the Weingart Foundation, andalmost needless to saythe Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, a longtime leader on homelessness. 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 $138 million 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.

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 more easily. Specifically, the coalition wants the city to produce at least 1,000 PSH units per year, which represents a 700-unit increase from existing inventory. To make this happen, Garcetti has committed to dramatically reducing 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 reduced 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 familiar with all three of the foundations involved in this collaboration. We’re expecting to see some new grants coming from these funders toward building infrastructure to meet these ambitious annual goals. Nonprofits already involved in the effort include Mercy Housing California and Los Angeles Family Housing.

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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