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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two homelessness prevention strategies at its meeting on May 21.
The first motion requires a thorough analysis of local eviction data and a review of eviction defense programs being offered in other areas, which will help the county design a local eviction defense program. Eviction defense services provide legal counsel to low-income renters at risk of eviction.
Research indicates that more than half of county residents are living paycheck to paycheck. Faced with any unexpected financial crisis, residents could find themselves unable to pay rent, evicted and without a home, according to the board. Eviction is profoundly disruptive for families, interrupting school and work schedules and damaging credit, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty by making it more difficult to move into a new rental, and potentially leading to homelessness. In 2017, New York City established an eviction defense program, and by the following year, legal representation of low-income tenants had risen by nearly one-third, and evictions had sharply declined.
“L.A.’s housing shortage and skyrocketing rents are leading to more and more people being pushed into homelessness,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, 3rd District, author of the motion. “We need to use every tool at our disposal to keep people in their homes.”
“It is not enough to provide housing and services to the homeless, we must also prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place,” added Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 2nd District, who co-authored the motion. “This requires expanding our arsenal of tools to better protect low-income residents on the brink of losing their homes, often through no fault of their own.”
In a related motion, the Board of Supervisors required county departments to track, coordinate and target services for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
“We know people often seek county social services before becoming homeless,” Kuehl said. “For instance, 37% of residents enrolled in county substance abuse treatment are at risk of homelessness. Can’t we find ways to provide those men and women with support before they become homeless, so they can stay in their homes?”
The motion asks relevant departments to identify ways to improve the delivery of preventative services.
The motions extend Kuehl’s efforts to reduce homelessness by expanding investment in prevention, outreach, supportive housing, rapid rehousing, bridge and permanent housing through the Homeless Initiative; curbing the rise of skyrocketing rents and evictions through rent stabilization and just cause policies; and increasing funding for affordable housing construction.
For information, visit file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/135664.pdf.
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