By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
After a few months of hiatus while getting adjusted to social distancing restrictions, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness returned on July 27 with a well-attended Zoom meeting.
Sharon Browning, co-president of PPTFH, led the meeting and began by sharing that from May to June, PPTFH and The People Concern moved 12 individuals from the street, with six into permanent housing. To date, 128 individuals have been moved from the street and 84 individuals into permanent housing due to their joint efforts.
Guest speakers for the July meeting were Heidi Marston, executive director of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern.
The task force selected its two feature speakers due to the rising number of people experiencing homelessness, Browning shared at the meeting.
“The LAHSA homeless count from January of this year showed 12.7% more Angelenos fell into homelessness this year than last, for a total of 66,433 people,” PPTFH shared in a flyer ahead of the meeting. “Add expected increases caused by COVID-19 and we have even greater numbers to take care of.”
Marston reported an overview of the homeless count and how this year, the annual count is unique because the world has changed so much since January when it took place.
She added that COVID-19 has inhibited some of their ability to respond: Project Roomkey was created to take the 15,000 identified people most vulnerable to the coronavirus off the street and help them to be housed indoors to prevent them from contracting the disease.
“There are 4,000 people in hotel rooms on any given night,” Marston shared. “No one sheltered by COVID-19 should be moved back to the street.”
In the Palisades, there have been zero cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, Browning reported.
Despite more people being on the streets, PPTFH and Marston explained that the collective effort to help the homeless is more effective than ever.
For the 217 people being rehoused every single day, 227 more are finding themselves on the streets—so even though they are doing better than ever, Marston explained that it’s not enough.
Later, she shared that 58% of people said they were homeless for the first time due to COVID-19. LAHSA is trying to use interventions that they know work, such as rapid rehousing.
The organization is trying to make pre-assembled move-in kits, so when people are housed, they have a bed, desk and items that make a home.
The county has already designated funding for this effort and they are waiting for the city to do the same, Marston said.
Maceri then spoke on behalf of The People Concern about the future and their partnership with PPTFH.
“We are housing and social service producers,” Maceri said. “It’s not just housing first, it’s housing always.”
In permanent supportive housing, the expectation is that people will need some continuing support, Maceri explained, sharing that 92% of people they have put into housing remain in housing and are never homeless again.
“We need to stop the inflow because if more people keep falling into homelessness, they will never get a handle on it,” Maceri said.
The People Concern is looking at housing solutions that are sustainable and scalable.
We are not ever going to get to scale in the current system, Maceri continued, so we need to look at creative ways.
“We’re limited in what we can do,” Maceri shared, touching on the added complication of needing to social distance at a time when people need to be housed. In addition, many of The People Concern volunteers are not able to be on-site because of social distancing.
The goal of the organization is to continue to deliver high-quality services with the current restraints, Maceri shared, as well as “continue to scale and sustain permanent supportive housing.”
He added that since many people are currently in temporary housing, they are easier to work with than if they were on the streets.
“We simply have to create and scale more housing,” Maceri said, with the concern being that there might be a lot more people on the streets when the moratorium on evictions across Los Angeles is lifted.
After the presentations, Browning concluded the meeting by sharing a slideshow of photos during COVID-19 closures and examples of PPTFH and The People Concern efforts, including a success story as well as how the organizations encourage the use of masks and meet-ups to give those in need brown bag lunches and help them keep track of their meetings.
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