“Is Los Angeles Addressing Its Homeless Crisis Correctly?” asked Drew Dennett and Gabrielle Lee in their October 8 letter to the Palisadian-Post. Thank you, Drew and Gabrielle, for bravely sharing your personal stories with the community.
Drew’s experience reminds us that every homeless person is someone’s child, probably once a high school student who played a sport or an instrument, had hobbies and had dreams for the future. When we see someone sleeping on the street, we don’t know what has led them to this place, but we know they need help.
Drew and Gabrielle’s letter highlighted two of the many problems that people experiencing homelessness face: mental illness and substance addiction. Through our work at the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), we understand that these, and many other factors, contribute to homelessness in Los Angeles, including loss of employment, low wages, housing shortages, lack of affordable housing and domestic violence, to name several. We all want to help, but we may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the crisis.
In its mission to address homelessness in the Palisades, PPTFH prioritizes permanent supportive housing and expanded mental health services, which are often complicated by substance abuse. To this end, PPTFH raises funds to partner with The People Concern, one of Los Angeles County’s largest social services agencies. The People Concern provides us with a trained, dedicated outreach team who circulate through the Palisades to find, meet with and build relationships with homeless individuals. Our goal is to help them accept services, including mental health care and substance abuse treatment, while working toward supportive housing.
Drew and Gabrielle also correctly point out the importance of counting unsheltered people who are living in cars in the U.S. Census. While PPTFH is not involved in the U.S. Census count, PPTFH volunteers are specifically trained for and participate in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA) federally mandated, Annual Count of homeless individuals. Volunteers specifically look for people living in vehicles. Last year, 23 were identified in the Palisades. It is a concern to us that undercounting by the U.S. Census Bureau may result in underfunding for our city.
PPTFH hopes to engage our entire community to help house people and get them the vital services they need. We encourage the Palisades community to attend our bi-monthly community webinar meetings and learn from the top experts in the field about what we can all do to better fight this issue.
Our November 16 online meeting will feature speakers and discussion about prospective California legislation that would enable certain counties, including Los Angeles, to adopt pilot programs allowing the use of court-ordered conservatorships over people who are “gravely disabled” due to mental illness. Please visit our website at pptfh.org to register for this webinar.
PPTFH is grateful for the support of the Palisades community. Please help by visiting our website, attending our meetings, telling your friends and neighbors about us, donating, and volunteering.
Sharon Browning and Sharon Kilbride
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