From left to right:
Councilmember Curren Price; LAHSA Commissioner Kelli Bernard; Mayor Eric Garcetti; LAHSA Commissioner Jacqueline Waggoner; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Rev. Cecil Murray, a civil rights leader; Reba Stevens, an Ad Hoc Committee member and advocate who has experienced homelessness; and Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward. (Photo credit: Leroy Hamilton)

More than 100 county, city, and community leaders gathered today to highlight racial disparities and address systemic racism in public policy affecting Black people experiencing homelessness across Los Angeles County.

Black people make up 9 percent of the population of LA County, but more than one-third of its population experiencing homelessness—an overrepresentation that is consistent demographically across other jurisdictions in the United States. A groundbreaking new report by LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness sheds light on why, and puts forth a broad set of targeted recommendations to reverse this injustice. 

The report, a culmination of nine months of work by the 26-member Ad Hoc Committee, includes 67 recommendations to create a broad framework that will advance equity and eliminate disparities that impact Black people experiencing homelessness across LA County. The report is the first step of a dynamic process of collaboration between stakeholders to implement recommendations, which include interweaving a racial equity lens throughout homelessness policy and service delivery systems as well as across public, private, and philanthropic institutions. 

A theme that cut across the committee’s work was that racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias in our public systems and institutions has contributed to, and remains intertwined with, homelessness. Ending homelessness will require a collective commitment to dismantling racism and addressing racial disparities, and sustained support from funders, policymakers, mainstream systems of care, service providers, and community partners. The report highlights persistent cases of systemic bias in policies affecting housing, employment, criminal justice, and child welfare—and identifies ways to advance racial equity in our homeless services system. 

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas addresses crowd.
(Photo credit: Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors)

“This report is a critical first step to address the collective failings of systems and institutions that—de facto and de jure—have been designed to deliver the painful disparities that affect so many of our brothers and sisters,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor  Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “Hard work lies ahead to counter this tragic inheritance. If our region is to prosper, it is not only a moral imperative, it is an absolute economic imperative that all who call Los Angeles home are able to attain their full measure of dignity and self-worth.” 

“We have long understood the painful reality that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are caught in the grip of homelessness—and we have to be more intentional about how to confront and end this crisis,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This report puts the spotlight where it needs to be, and helps us focus efforts on the individuals, families, and communities that need the most help.” 

“Homelessness is the greatest issue facing Los Angeles and racism is amplifying the impacts of economic inequality and housing access,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember  Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Now is the time to directly address the root causes of homelessness and racism remains one of the biggest causes.”

“This report is a launching pad for a new level of collaboration,” said LAHSA Commissioner Jacqueline Waggoner, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and VP and Southern California Market Leader of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. “It reflects a diversity of voices, including people who have experienced homelessness, service providers, and community members, and creates a blueprint for change. This is just the beginning of the work, and we will keep applying a racial equity lens to our systems and policies as we move forward.” 

“Only by acknowledging and naming the painful truth about how our systems and policies have created these unjust racial disparities can we do the hard work together to reverse them,” said Kelli Bernard, chair of the LAHSA Commission and vice chair of the Ad Hoc committee. “I’m hopeful about the impact we can make by attacking these systemic obstacles in such an intentional way, and the lives that can be changed for the better as a result.”