Homelessness now addressed in 2022 strategic action plan

(JM Suarez)

By Gary Luster

According to the Los Angeles Almanac, data shows that there were more than 66,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County in 2020, which is the most recent year that homelessness data was collected. Of that number, 97 were located in the city of Gardena.

To address this issue, the city recently implemented its Homelessness Strategic Plan, which will provide city officials with clarity and direction regarding the needs, service gaps, and priorities as they pertain to the homeless so that officials can make more effective funding decisions that serve both the city’s current homeless population as well as those who are at risk of becoming homeless.

The Plan came about as a way to ensure additional funding through Measure H, the 1⁄4-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in March 2017, which was the first revenue stream dedicated to preventing and addressing homelessness countywide.

The measure is projected to raise $355 million annually for 10 years, or a total of $3.5 bil- lion, to implement the County’s Homeless Initiative strategies. It is set expire in 2027, unless renewed by voters.

Stephany Santin of the city of Gardena, said the plan outlines several steps that the city will take in order to address the issue of homelessness in Gardena

“The plan would include, but is not be limited to comprehensive needs assessment for Gardena’s homeless population, including looking at mental health needs, substance abuse needs, income needs, restorative justice needs, other needs to the demographics of Gardena’s homeless population, and homeless inflows and outflows,” Santin said.

She said that additional steps to address Gardena’s homelessness issue include suggested sites that will be used for interim housing, plans to increase the city’s permanent housing inventory, and prevention strategies to mitigate the influx of homeless people into the city.

“We participate in the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count,” Santin said. “In 2016, the Los Angeles Continuum of Care started holding the Home- less Count annually to analyze the trends of people experiencing homelessness. The annual Homeless Count is an essential component in getting vital information that helps us provide an accurate picture of the state of homelessness in Los Angeles and deliver services where they are most needed. It also increases general homelessness awareness with the public and increases engagement with leaders, residents, and stakeholders. The results will be released to the public in summer 2022, at which time the presentation and data summaries will be published on lahsa.org/homeless-count.”

To help implement their plan, the city turned to Focus Strategies, a Walnut, California-based consulting firm that specializes in helping communities find and develop solutions to the problem of homelessness.

“As consultants, they help guide us through the development of the homeless plan,” Santin said. “They will assist the City of Gardena in setting goals that will lead to a meaningful reduction in homelessness over a three-year period. The Homelessness Plan will include strategies to leverage local resources and align with the County Homeless Initiative Strategies to maximize impact in reducing homelessness within our jurisdiction.”

Using information acquired from various sources such as the County of Los Angeles Public Health’s Service Planning Area 8, that covers all of the South Bay cities including Gardena, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the city of Gardena, Focus Strategies will help the city develop a three-phase plan beginning with initial information gathering to understand the current state of homelessness in Gardena.

Phase Two includes stakeholder engagement, goal setting, and strategy development followed by Phase Three, which includes developing and finally adopting the city’s Three-Year Homelessness Plan.

The stakeholders that will be involved in helping Focus Strategies develop their plan include four groups: internal stakeholders such as city employees from each department who currently work with the city’s homeless population; external stakeholders such as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, behavioral care groups, ministerial organizations, and out- reach teams; people experiencing homelessness; and the local community who will be able to express their thoughts and concerns at Community Input Sessions which will be scheduled to occur this month and in September.

Currently the city is work- ing on the Homelessness Strategic Plan, which Santin said will be ready for presentation to the Gardena City Council in December.

“The City has always taken an active role in addressing and preventing homelessness, but this allows us to look at having more direction and clarity and close some of the gaps we are missing,” Santin said.

Those interested in more in- formation on the city’s homelessness issue and what the city is doing to address it, can read the City of Gardena’s Annual Action Plan online at https:// legistarweb-production.s3amazonaws.com.

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