A little more information

The two main activities in my life: Helping the hungry in the late hours of the night and helping guitar players sound better one amp at a time.

I always try to remember that in order to do good one has to take action and actually do something.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I have watched the city and Southern California change for well over half a century.

I can be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/mylesr or on twitter at www.twitter.com/myles111us or on my own Guitar Amplifier Blueprinting website at www.mylesrose.com

Los Angeles Architectural History

Los Angeles Architectural History
1935 Art Deco at some of its finest: No. 168 - Griffith Observatory- (click on the photo for information)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Label failure a success! The homeless of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the city with the distinction of having the highest homeless population in the nation.  

Recently there was a story in the Los Angeles Times.  I first heard about the story last week as a group of us were driving to a birthday dinner party.  I did not know the details of the story but I went off on a bit of a rant as soon as I heard the title and the basics of the story from a passenger in the car.

Housing project for hard-core homeless pays off

A study of homeless adults housed by L.A. County's Project 50 suggests providing permanent housing to vulnerable populations saves local governments money.

There is more to this story.  Click on "read more" below for the more complete picture.

Did I miss the point of the story?  Perhaps.

If the point of the story is that our city government and an organization was able to skirt the issue of the homeless, hide the issue with smoke and mirrors and divert attention from the issue then perhaps I missed the point of the story.

I am in my fifth year of walking the streets of skid row in Los Angeles.  I don't  believe much of what I read in the official publications or reports.  I trust my eyes and the people I talk to on the streets of skid row.

One does not need 20/20 vision to see that the number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles has increased since 2009 when I started to count people.

At this point I will read the story more closely.  I will embed within the story some thoughts that cross my mind.  My thoughts will be in color font.

The story in the Los Angeles Times:

An ambitious program to provide permanent housing to some of Los Angeles County's most hard-core homeless more than paid for itself, yielding a net savings of $238,700 over two years, officials said Thursday. 
Maybe I am wrong but I think this is a fraction of what Union Rescue Mission spends in a month.  

The long-awaited findings, presented to a countywide panel on homelessness, support a growing consensus across the country that getting the most entrenched street dwellers into permanent homes and providing them the services they need to stay off the streets can save municipalities money. I ask myself why the people with the least chance to change their lives were chosen.  Who was on this panel?  Did any of these folks walk the streets of skid row at night?  Did any of the folks on this panel talk to the people living on the street?

More than 51,000 people are homeless on any given night in the county, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. About a quarter of them are considered chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for at least a year and suffer from a serious physical, mental or substance abuse problem.  LAHSA.  Where they come up with these numbers is a mystery to me.  I have seen their reports, facts and figures in the past.  They must have use some sort of random number generator with a ceiling on a maximum number that generates the count.

How about a suggestion for you LAHSA folks?  Spend 30 days living on the street.  You too will have series physical, mental and perhaps substance abuse problems.  It does not take a year.

Think about the mental state of a family who has lost their home due to the economy who are still fortunate enough to live in their car.  Not quite on the street yet but when the car is sold they will be.  You don't think a parent or parents who provided for their family for years has mental issues now?

Yet .... you folks picked the 50 least capable people to provide housing.  People who have learned to live on the street.  Why did you not help some of these families with a history of a good work ethic before their children developed mental images and memories that will last a lifetime?

Project 50 was controversial because it did not require people to get sober before they were housed. But advocates of the so-called housing-first approach say a permanent roof provides the stability chronically homeless people need to get their lives back on track.  Controversial?  I could not have come up with a more stupid plan if I had a committee of PhD graduates from any area of the social sciences.

The project, championed by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, began in late 2007 with the goal of finding and housing the 50 most vulnerable, long-term homeless living on the streets of skid row in downtown Los Angeles. Since then, the number of participants has grown to 133, of whom 94 remain housed, seven are incarcerated, 12 have died and 20 left the program.  How about some data here?  133?  Was more housing supplied or are some of the original participants now subletting some of their own space to others?  I don't believe these sorts of facts if there is no supporting information. 12 have died?  Who is now living where they were living?  How were these new people chosen?

20 left the program.  Somewhere in this piece I eluded or mentioned that some folks have adopted and prefer a life on the street.  If you pick the 50 most "homeless" folks for the program and 20 drop out of the program it seems as if my point is proven.  20/50.  40% failure rate and that is ONLY those who left the program.

These numbers confuse me.  Looking at the original 50 and not the others you have seem to have added to the program.... 7 are in jail. 12 have died. 20 have left the program.  39 out of 50 or a 78% failure rate.

Seems I am missing some point here.  I guess the point is this program saved  $238,700 in two years.  The closer one looks the less impressive are even the program numbers.  That is less than $120,000 "saved" per year.  The article also states "net savings".  What are net savings?  Is that like the adjusted unemployment figures that show less than half of the people who are actually out of work?

"My notion was that front-end investment in social services and stable housing would not only prove to be vastly more humane, but less costly for the public treasury," Yaroslavsky said in an email. "This audit makes the case for accelerating the county's efforts to house the chronically homeless and provide them with the critical social services they need."  OK.  I am not a professional reporter or professional writer and at times I can get emotional.  My comment to the above paragraph....

Mr. Yaroslavsky ... Are you an idiot? Rather than send staff members or committee members to write reports and come up with more stupid ideas why don't YOU take a trip to Union Rescue Mission and have a sit down, face to face meeting with Andy Bales, the CEO of URM.  No committee, no big group.  No small group.  Just you and him, one on one.  Here is a little tip and hint .... take a big pad of paper and take notes.

The study, conducted by a county research unit, compared 50 participants who moved into apartments to a similar group of homeless adults who did not join the program.  The study was conducted by .... OK.  I'd love to talk to some of these folks myself.  Consider this a request.  I will wait for somebody from this research unit to contact me for a meeting.  I am also requesting a copy of the study.

Between 2008 and 2010, the program cost the county $3.045 million but generated $3.284 million in estimated savings, the report said. That is equivalent to a $4,774 surplus for each apartment provided, it said.

Mental health costs for the participants increased 367% in the first year, compared to a nearly 200% increase for non-participants. Manuel Moreno, the study's lead investigator, said the higher figure could be because serious problems had gone largely untreated before participants were admitted to the program.  One more time folks.  Since 2008 the population on the street of homeless had doubled, at a minimum.

The increase in costs for drug and alcohol abuse treatment was higher for the control group than for Project 50 participants. Moreno said non-participants were more likely to use lengthy residential programs than participants, who generally received less expensive out-patient services.

Those costs were offset by savings generated because participants were no longer cycling in and out of hospital emergency rooms, shelters and jails, the report said. Incarceration costs for program participants, for example, fell 28% in their first year in the program, compared to a 42% increase for non-participants. By the second year, the number of incarcerated participants dropped from 24 to 5.  I'd like Mr. Moreno to have some of his folks go back and correlate his figures with the increase in services provided by folks like Union Rescue Mission, The Midnight Mission, The Los Angeles Mission.

Medical costs for the participants fell 68% in their first year, compared to a 37% drop for the control group. Participants went from receiving most of their care through expensive emergency and inpatient services to making greater use of clinics, the report said.

More than 130 communities across the country have launched similar initiatives, according to the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which aims to permanently house 100,000 homeless people by July 2014. Together, those programs have housed 16,944 people, including 1,664 in Los Angeles County, according to figures collected by the group.

After years of debate about the approach, the Board of Supervisors in 2011 endorsed a plan submitted by business leaders that makes it a priority to provide the chronically homeless with permanent housing and support services. The county's Interdepartmental Council on Homelessness is now considering strategies to address homelessness among other populations, including youths, veterans and families.

It is difficult for me to pay attention to this story.

There are impressive facts and figures.  What do these facts and figures say to me?

What this story says to me is that there are some folks that found a great way to save the city money.  Did it solve the problem?  Did it reduce the number of people on the street?  Did it provide a long term solution to the issue of being homeless?  No.

The project picked the 50 most long term homeless people for this project.  I suppose that getting 50 people who have shown less inclination to change or try to improve their lives, 50 people who have a confirmed history of failure, 50 people who have honed living on the street to a personal science met some sort of strange criteria to folks running this program but the logic is lost on me.

I suppose that taking 50 people off the street so they were not visible in front of downtown establishments and businesses was a success.  Congratulations to the folks running this program are in order I suppose?

I suppose the less of this sort of thing is visible the better for programs such as this program.

I bitch about the program and offer no solution or ideas?  O.K.  Here are a few of my own thoughts and observations.  I am no expert on the homeless situation but I have seen a few things in the last few years and have a few thoughts on my observations.

You cannot fix a problem of this nature overnight.  If you put a roof over somebodies head you better also give them the skills to pay utility bills, shop for food, get their laundry done and develop many other skills to live a conventional life.  Teaching these things takes time.  Trying to teach these things to the 50 people who are the most adept at not living a conventional life is a recipe for failure.


Support means having somebody to talk to and a plan with objectives and milestones.  The folks at Union Rescue Mission have programs in place which have a proven track record of success.  The do not fix an individual overnight. URM has a long term program with many steps.  They take the time.  In the end, if the individual desires to make a life change they are successful.

You want a suggestion on a better way to spend the money than on programs such as the focus of the above story?  Put the money into programs with a proven track record.  To these folks I can steer you in the right direction.  Go to http://www.urm.org/.  There are many ways that you can help.

Looking back at the article there are many numbers that look quite impressive.  Here are a few numbers of my own.  2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 to date - I have watched the population on the streets of skid row double each year.

I am not doubting that this program is saving money.  I am doubting that it is helping the homeless.  I am not doubting that it is masking the problem.  I am not doubting that it makes a great political statement.

You can read the original story at:

1 comment:

  1. As a homeless advocate in Laguna Beach, I too read this story and thought it was missing some key information. I don't think Zev Yaroslavsky is an idiot. At least he is doing something and keeping the topic at the top of the list of important issues and one of the most intractable. And I believe the idea behind Project 50 was to have 50 fewer corpses of homeless folks; to give people at least some of the help they needed, and I believe there were at least some wraparound social services provided. The article is very spotty and sort of raises more questions than it answers, but I think it's important to credit the effort behind Project 50 and encourage more such out-of-the-box thinking. Your rant reminds of the people who say things like, "Why hold a big fundraiser for your cause? Why not just ask people to donate what they would have spent on a dress and and the food and the ballroom and donate it instead?" The answer is because they don't - you have to get in front of people and do something that gets noticed, that gets them to care. The L.A. homeless situation is bad - but you have to start someplace. Project 50 is an experiment that seems to have saved some lives, so, to me, it's not all bad. I do wish the article had more and better data included.