Homelessness

Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis in Los Angeles. On average, four unhoused people die everyday. The City of LA has failed to address homelessness, with more people entering homelessness than exiting into permanent, secure housing. Since 2013, the homelessness rate has skyrocketed by 80% from 22,992 to 41,290, according to the 2020 LAHSA Homeless Count.

The City spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year ($800M this fiscal year) to solve homelessness, but the lack of oversight and financial transparency leads to mismanaged resources. In addition, a lack of political will to address the root causes of homelessness, primarily a lack of affordable housing coupled with a lack of adequate healthcare for people with disabilities and substance use disorders, only ensures homelessness continues to grow. Systemic racism leads to homelessness disproportionately affecting Black people, where Black people are 8% of the general population in L.A. County but represent 34% of the unhoused population.

The City Controller has a unique role in overseeing funds spent and the progress on ending homelessness while holding city officials accountable for their policy failures. As City Controller, we will:

Account and audit homelessness funds and programs

  • We will provide a detailed accounting similar to the current Checkbook for homelessness spending to ensure that funds are being spent effectively and efficiently.
  • Currently, there is no detailed accounting of homelessness spending. We need a detailed breakdown of the homelessness budget vs how much we actually spend to measure the impact of our tax dollars.
  • Audit yearly progress of Prop HHH as mandated by voters to ensure we are on track for the production of permanent supportive housing units in a timely and cost effective manner.


Audit and calculate the cost of homeless encampment sweeps and criminalization

  • The practice of sweeps, which are otherwise known as CARE+ or SECZ cleanups, are designed to displace encampment residents, pushing people from block to block with little attention on providing services or housing. A financial analysis of sweeps would reveal their exact costs, and we would identify more cost-effective ways of connecting people to housing.
  • Unhoused residents also deserve clean streets and hygiene. We will work with unhoused residents and advocates to develop best practices on how to service encampments that will materially improve public health and hygiene.
  • The City of LA has passed numerous ordinances to criminalize homelessness. While the City Controller lacks legislative power, we can calculate the cost of criminalization and study its impact on people’s ability to exit homelessness.
  • Armed police is an inappropriate response to homelessness. As City Controller, we can track the cost of enforcing anti-homeless laws and make recommendations on alternative responses that prioritize housing and services.

Propose plans and recommendations on how to functionally end homelessness

  • The City of LA is spending $800M on homelessness this year, which is insufficient to fully address the magnitude of the crisis. Although the Controller cannot make decisions on the budget, we can make recommendations.
  • We can also identify sources of funding, whether through federal and state governments, through new sources of revenue, or other city funds, to bolster the level of services and housing needed to end homelessness.
  • We recommend the City of LA provide rental assistance to our unhoused neighbors, similar to the same approach the City of LA is taking with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to help current tenants stay housed. Most recently, LA City Council approved the creation of a program that would do exactly this – provide rental subsidies coupled with supportive services for 10,000 homeless individuals. We will go beyond this program and provide an analysis to house all 40,000 unhoused people.


Identify vacant land and property to be used for housing

  • The stock of low-income and permanent supportive housing must be dramatically scaled up to meet the needs of every unhoused Angeleno. As Controller, we will identify every vacant City-owned land and property that can be used for housing.
  • We will also provide cost estimates and recommendations for motel or vacant building conversions into permanent supportive housing.
  • There is currently no city rental registry and no city database of vacant apartments. As Controller, we will determine how many apartment units are vacant and provide cost estimates for housing our unhoused residents in vacant apartments.


Create maps and tools to help unhoused people connect to services

Many unhoused people have a smartphone, but the City has neglected to use technology to help people connect to services and resources. Our campaign has already begun creating maps to help people locate affordable housing units and navigate criminalization zones (see affordablehousing.mejiaforcontroller.com and 4118.mejiaforcontroller.com). As Controller, we will create a real-time database of shelter availability and services and resources. Right now, there is no centralized database that shows shelter options and capacity. An easy-to-use and mobile friendly interactive map displaying shelter and resources available will go far towards helping people get off the streets.


Form a lived experience oversight department to provide insight on reports and recommendations

The City of LA does not have a single entity composed of unhoused people to provide feedback and recommendations on policies and programs. This is reflected in the dysfunctional bureaucracy of homelessness services and laws and practices that actively harm people while working against the goal of housing. As City Controller, we will create the city’s first lived experience department within the Controller’s office to assist in providing recommendations and analysis of homelessness services.


Work with unhoused people to provide direct services

The City Controller does not typically provide direct services to unhoused people, but there are situations in which providing financial assistance and education can materially improve people’s lives. For example, our campaign for City Controller trained over 500 advocates on how to help unhoused people file their taxes to obtain their missed stimulus payments. The campaign has personally assisted over 50 people file for their stimulus payments. As Controller, we will continue offering and expanding on these services.