February 24, 2017 - From the February, 2017 issue

Mark Ridley-Thomas On Funding Homeless Services Through Measure H

On the March 7 ballot, residents of Los Angeles County will vote whether to pass Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund homelessness services and assistance for those at-risk of becoming homeless. Measure H is expected to raise about $350 million every year for a decade to provide multidimensional services such as health care, job training, case management, emergency housing, and support services for women, the elderly, and transitional youth. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, Measure H would support the funding approved by Proposition HHH, a $1.2 Billion bond measure passed by the City of Los Angeles to build 10,000 units of supportive, permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals. Recently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority had identified a gap of $450 million a year needed to provide programs for the 47,000 people estimated to be homeless in the county. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has been actively fighting for increased funding to help homeless Angelenos, and joins TPR to discuss how the County can use this funding to support our most vulnerable communities.


Mark Ridley-Thomas

“If Measure H passes, we can help 45,000 men, women and children move from homelessness to stable housing in the next five years, and provide them with high-quality supportive services necessary for them to succeed in the long run.” - Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Supervisor, for the past year you have championed a funding measure to address homelessness across Los Angeles County. What makes this the defining civic issue for you? 

Mark Ridley-Thomas: The skyline of Downtown Los Angeles provides a stark illustration of the wealth gap in our region. Mere steps away from dozens of cranes looming above gleaming towers, human beings live in utter squalor, subjected to unspeakable living situations. This uneasy juxtaposition is visible in every corner of the County. It’s not just Skid Row. It’s San Pedro and Santa Clarita and neighborhoods in between.

There are 47,000 people who are homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County. 4,000 of the County’s homeless are children, and one in three are women, who are particularly vulnerable to being assaulted.

LA County leads the nation in the number of homeless persons sleeping on the streets each night. We shouldn’t be known as the homeless capital of the world. We have a responsibility to fight homelessness and we must act now.

To address this, you have championed Measure H. What will this measure do?

Measure H on the March 7th ballot will generate $355 million a year, for the next 10 years, to provide the supportive services necessary to prevent at least 30,000 more people from becoming homeless, and make sure that those who are transitioning out of homelessness thrive. It will cost Angelenos on average a dollar a month. In exchange, we believe that if Measure H passes, we can help 45,000 men, women and children move from homelessness to stable housing in the next five years, and provide them with high-quality supportive services necessary for them to succeed in the long run.

By some reports, LA County is lacking more than a half million affordable housing units. How do we tackle the homeless crisis with such a huge gap in available, affordable housing?

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High-quality affordable housing is a critical element of getting individuals off the streets, and between the recent passage of HHH in the City of Los Angeles, the No Place Like Home Initiative across the State of California, and the County’s own growing Affordable Housing Trust Fund, there is an unprecedented opportunity to publicly subsidize the creation of affordable housing. But it is not just bricks and sticks that will solve this problem. The bottom line is that we need comprehensive and expansive supportive services to get ahead of this crisis. Measure H means more multidisciplinary outreach teams, substance abuse and mental health services, more recuperative care beds, sobering centers, and increasing the supply of rapid-rehousing resources.

How will you assess Measure H’s success?

We will not solve homelessness overnight. People who have been on the streets for months or years will not necessarily trust the first outreach worker that approaches them. We need to build a robust infrastructure – in partnership with the tremendous work of the nonprofit, faith and business communities – to be able to meet people where they are and provide the services that they need.

We are already building the foundation for this infrastructure through the 47-point community action plan that was approved by the Board in February 2016.  Each of the 47 strategies has related outcome measurements, which are being tracked by the County and progress reports are being published quarterly.  If you go to the Los Angeles County Homelessness Portal, you can learn more about the strategies and what has already been accomplished through an unprecedented collaboration between community stakeholders of all stripes. The County will consistently evaluate the Homeless Initiative to gauge success. In addition, the Citizen’s Oversight Committee will publish an accounting of expenditures to provide accountability and transparency. 

I am confident that the resources that Measure H will generate will allow us to provide a range of services to meaningfully confront and make a significant impact on this crisis.  So, I implore everyone to get to the polls on March 7th and support Measure H! 

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© 2017 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.