Wednesday, August 14, 2019, Congresswoman Maxine Waters held a hearing entitled, “Examining The Homelessness Crisis in Los Angeles” to discuss ending homelessness with key stakeholders in Los Angeles County.
The hearing included representatives from the House Financial Services Committee, chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Silvia Garcia (D-TX), and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA). Also welcoming members of the California Delegation including Rep. Nanette Barragan, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Judy Chu, and Rep. Brad Sherman.
Held at the California African American Museum, the hearing focused on current and future plans to decrease a large amount of homelessness Los Angeles faces. Congresswoman opened the discussion with a message for all in attendance, thanking the museum director and staff for housing the event.
“As Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, I have made it a top priority to focus on homelessness. We are in a national homelessness crisis. Earlier this year, I convened the first-ever full Committee hearing on homelessness. Today, we will continue our discussion by
examining the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, and the federal, state, and local responses to address this great challenge that this city and our nation are facing,” she said.
The first panel of witnesses included, Christina Miller, Deputy Mayor for City Homeless Initiatives, Office of Los Angeles Mayor, Peter Lynn, Executive Director, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Margarita Lares, Chief Program Officer, Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Monique King-Viehland, Executive Director, Los Angeles County Development Authority, Kevin Murray, Former State Senator and President and CEO, The Weingart Center, Phil Ansell, Director, Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative.
The panelist honed in on their organization’s use of federal funding to help aid in the war against homelessness, detailing where the money given to their programs has gone and showing their support of the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019 which was introduced by Chairwoman Waters in February of 2019. The bill provides $13.3 billion to improve existing programs to meet the needs of homeless people in the county. The bill was approved March 2019, this hearing stood as a progress note on the conditions of the act.
“We cannot ignore that our homelessness crisis is directly linked to the affordable housing crisis. Too many people cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads, as wages have not kept pace with rising rents. Los Angeles has one of the least affordable housing markets in the United States. In LA County, a renter earning the minimum wage of $13.25 per hour would need to work 79 hours a week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment. As a result, approximately 721,000 households in the County are severely rent-burdened—meaning that they pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent,” Chairwoman Waters said in her opening speech, a statistic nearly every panelist highlighted.
After each panel, the representatives were each given five minutes to share remarks and ask questions regarding the claims made by witnesses. During his five minutes, Representative Sherman, opens with a statement regarding one major issue, the price of living in LA, stating, “The homeless issue is a combination of issues. Some are homeless because of substance abuse and psychological issues and trauma, some are mostly homeless because the rent is too [explicit] high.”
Nearly every panelist and representative agreed, the homelessness crisis is also the affordable housing crisis. Also alluding to the homelessness crisis as not only an economic issue but that of structural and institutional racism issue as well.
The second panel of witnesses included community members, some of which gave personal testimonies, also highlighting the plight women face when it comes to homelessness. Tim Watkins, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, Joe Horiye, Western Region Program Vice President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Becky Dennison, Executive Director, Venice Community Housing, Isela Gracian, President, East LA Community Corporation, Anthony Haynes, Speak Up! Advocate, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Erika Hartman, Chief Program Officer, Downtown Women’s Center, Chancela Al-Mansour, Executive Director, Housing Rights Center, Alma Vizcaino, Speaker, Downtown Women’s Center, on behalf of Domestic Violence Homeless Services Coalition Advocate, Dora Leong Gallo, President and Chief Executive Officer, A Community of Friends.
During this time, panelist shared more personal stories as each supports a community service-based program. Majority of their focus was on mental health and the ability to rehabilitate the homeless population to better prepare them for success once they are given the opportunity to gain housing. Alma Vizcaino gave a moving personal testimony on just how being homeless and multiple unwarranted evictions affected her mental health, stating, “I have experienced homelessness, mental health problems related to the impact of trauma, and chronic health conditions like diabetes as a result of my hardships.”
The final panel which featured only Mayor Eric Garcetti, in which he opened with many thanks to the representatives for supporting the cause to end homelessness in his county and shared positivity on the matter believing the crisis is without a doubt, solvable.
“I hope to give you a perspective of some hope and some belief, that this is a human-caused problem that ultimately can be a human solved problem as well,” he stated. Citing the factors that often time create homelessness is lack of resources for those who have dealt with trauma whether being, domestic and sexual abuse, aged-out foster children, mental health, substance abuse, and low wages – issues of which he is sure can be solved with more resources.
The informative hearing spoke frequently about Proposition HHH, the Ending Homelessness Act and the ways these programs are benefiting or absorbing funds that could be more useful elsewhere. As this issue will not be solved quickly, it is clear, all are working to fight against increase numbers and protect the vulnerable people living on the streets.
Putting full belief into the act, Chairwoman Waters states, “We need a bold and comprehensive response at the federal, state, and local level to address the homelessness crisis. That’s why I have introduced the Ending Homelessness Act, legislation that would provide over $13 billion in funding to ensure every person experiencing homelessness in America has a place to call home. The Financial Services Committee passed this legislation earlier this year, and I am committed to doing everything I can to get the bill passed into law.”
To learn more about the homeless crisis and legislation created to solve the issue visit https://financialservices.house.gov/. To watch the hearing visit https://financialservices.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=404181.