Tonight January 29, 2013 begins the SPA4 Downtown otherwise known as Skid Row start of our annual homeless count for LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency) and ultimately HUD (Housing and Urban Development). This count is critical to the process of addressing homelessness issues locally and nationally.
Local and national resolve to end chronic homelessness and better manage temporary periods of homelessness requires not just lofty words but some down and dirty work to get at the core issues. Funding for emergency shelters and transitional housing cannot be swept away just because they are not 100% successful in housing placement. Permanent and affordable housing is critical for all those in the continuum of care whether homeless one day, one year or one decade or more.
The exciting innovation we at the Los Angeles Mission are participating in is a Vulnerability Survey designed to address issues that make those in homelessness more vulnerable to critical illness and death. The end goal is to try and house these individuals quickly with a less quantifiable reduction in medical and emergency services. With housing and consistent medical care, including mental health, studies show a reduction in the return to homelessness.
The unfortunate part of this process is we cannot help everyone at once. What the vulnerability survey does in effect is create a triage of those who can and will be helped first while continuing to manage the challenges of those newly homeless or with less medical compromise.
The Los Angeles Mission is committed to helping at the emergency and transitional programmatic level of care. We also support the need for permanent supportive housing for those with mental health conditions that require community support. Our goal is always towards self sufficiency and independence knowing that some among our community need more intensive assistance. As President Kennedy once said “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” As a community we need personal responsibility combined with private and government support to address the national crisis of homelessness and its root causes of unemployment, addiction, mental health and despair.
Tonight and tomorrow night in skid row volunteers will be counting and surveying some of the most needy in our community and on Thursday they will do the headcount needed by LAHSA to address its budgetary and programmatic concerns. Thank you to the volunteers, donors and agencies that have come together for this historic first Count Plus effort in skid row.