OC Example on Homeless Veterans – Will LA Have Sense to Follow?

Anyone else notice that Orange County continues to square up on homelessness in a way that escapes neighboring Los Angeles?

Sure, LA’s challenge is larger. But so are the resources that both the City of LA and County of LA have at their disposal.

The least LA officials could do is check out what seem to be some best practices in OC, from the court order that led to a genuine effort to find housing for homeless folks living along the Santa Ana River to a new program aimed at helping military veterans off the streets.

The program for vets stems from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris’ success in getting $2.9 million from the state budget for the current fiscal year for the Welcome Home OC program of United Way. The program involves the County of Orange, Orange County Housing Authority, the Apartment Association of Orange County, individual property owners and various service providers.

The money from the state will be used to provide homeless individuals with vouchers for rental assistance in OC. United Way has lined up owners of private property to participate in the program.

The most recent count of homeless folks in OC brought an estimate of 312 vets.

There currently are two projects in the works and on track to deliver a combined 124 units of housing for homeless vets. The rent vouchers under the $2.9 million for the Welcome Home OC program are expected to be enough to get the remaining 188 homeless vets into existing rental units for a year.
That comes to about $15,500 per person for the voucher program.

Compare the benchmark of the OC program with the more than $600 million budget of the City of LA – and there was more spending by the County of LA – for programs that led to a net increase of 11,400 homeless individuals getting housed last year. The increase is based on a comparison with the annual totals of homeless individuals getting housing in 2014, before voters approved extra taxes to raise billions of dollars for city and county programs.

The cost in LA comes to a minimum of $38,771 per person, about 150% higher than OC – and that’s before you even factor in the county’s spending alongside the city’s budget.

Perhaps LA could send a contingent down to OC to study best practices, especially when it comes to deploying the assets of the private sector in matching some segments of the homeless population with existing rental units.

Jerry Sullivan is founder and chief columnist for SullivanSaysSoCal.com.