Holly J. Mitchell and Jennifer Hark-Dietz (Courtesy photos)

As the State continues to weigh potential budget cuts, support for homelessness services for our most vulnerable residents hangs in the balance, including the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP) and the Housing Navigation and Maintenance Program (HNMP). These programs serve as lifelines for individuals with disabilities and those struggling to secure stable housing. Cutting funding would exacerbate existing challenges and undermine any gains the State and Los Angeles County made in our collective effort to stem the rising rate of unhoused residents.

If approved, the Governor’s proposed $50M cut to HDAP will cause Los Angeles County to potentially eliminate 115 Interim Housing Stabilization Care beds. These beds serve a vital need, helping individuals with complex health and behavioral health conditions access supportive services unavailable at most shelters. Cuts to HDAP funding could also force the County to discontinue its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) advocacy to hundreds of individuals who rely on SSI workers to help advocate and obtain vital funds  – this includes children and adults who are blind or have a disability or are age 65 and older. Only by shifting funding away from other vulnerable individuals who also need housing and services would the County be able to back-fill this loss of State HDAP funding.

The $13.7M in proposed cuts to the Housing Navigation and Maintenance Program will impact one of our most vulnerable populations: young people exiting the foster care system. HNMP is a lifeline for countless young people across the nation, providing access to housing stability and rental assistance. In 2022, the program expanded to serve youth exiting foster care and former foster youth who received federal Housing Choice Vouchers.

We know that having a housing voucher doesn’t guarantee access to housing. It requires consistent outreach and support. I recently met with a delegation of former foster youth from the National Foster Youth Institute who shared painful details of landlords discriminating against them for having housing vouchers through the federal Foster Youth to Independence program – which is illegal – and how hard it is for countless many of their peers to even obtain housing vouchers. HNMP helps address these barriers, by getting these vital vouchers into the hands of foster youth who need them and helping to identify housing options, cover move-in costs, and provide ongoing supportive services for young adults to maintain stability once housed.

In a County that is home to the largest population of foster youth in the nation, disinvestment in the Housing Navigation and Maintenance Program comes at too high of a cost that will result in more young adults falling into homelessness.

Preserving funding for the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program and the Housing Navigation and Maintenance Program isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do because it works. In times of economic uncertainty, it’s understandable that difficult budgetary decisions must be made. However, balancing the budget should not come at the expense of proven tools for prevention and supportive services. At the same time, we continue to face a housing affordability crisis.  Preserving funding for programs like HDAP and HNMP isn’t just a matter of fiscal responsibility; it’s a moral imperative.

Holly J. Mitchell is the Los Angeles County Supervisor for the 2nd District. Jennifer Hark-Dietz is the CEO of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).