CNS – Fifty of the most vulnerable homeless people on downtown’s Skid Row would be identified and moved into apartments with accessible support services under a program given tentative approval Nov. 20 by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
The program, patterned after projects under way in New York and other cities, is not only aimed at saving the lives of those most likely to die on the streets, but also is expected to save taxpayers the millions of dollars typically spent on people who cycle in and out of shelters, jails and emergency rooms, county officials said.
“We are targeting the most challenged individuals on Skid Row,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
The board approved two contracts with homeless advocacy groups to provide training and identify housing for the program.
But the plan still must return to the board within 30 days for final approval once the total cost of the program is determined. Once approved, efforts would begin in mid-January to identify the people who will be targeted, and they will be placed in housing within 100 days.
Although only 50 of the estimated 73,000 homeless people living in the county will be targeted by the program, officials hope getting them off the streets will have a ripple effect in the community.
“These 50 are the anchors, people who are the leaders, the shot callers,” Yaroslavsky said.
He said the program may prompt others in the area to seek out help as well.
“It’s worked in other parts of the country,” he said.
New York City-based Common Ground, one of the advocacy groups being contracted for the effort, implemented a similar program in a 20-block area of Times Square and reduced the number of homeless people there by 87 percent, according to the organization.
A 2007 homeless count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed that while the county has had an overall decline of 17 percent in the number of homeless people since 2005, Skid Row had a 40 percent increase from 3,668 to 5,131 living in the 52-block area.
As part of the program, outreach workers will take a census of the homeless in the area using a vulnerability index developed by Common Ground to identify those most at risk of dying on Skid Row.
They will then be assigned case workers and moved into housing provided by Skid Row Housing Trust, an organization slated to get the other contract which refurbishes and provides homes to the homeless.
“They’re (case workers) going to shadow them until they’re back on their feet,” Yaroslavsky said.