The Biden-Harris Administration is the latest entity to join Mayor Karen Bass’ efforts to assist the unhoused as Jeff Olivet, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, announced the federal government’s support of the mayor’s initiatives.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 7, Bass, Olivet and service providers vowed to unite to address the connection between homelessness and substance abuse in hopes of reducing the numbers of people affected by both issues. The group met at AADAP – Asian American Drug Abuse Program – in South L.A. to discuss the devastating impact of the two components.
“I’m very proud to be here at the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, an organization that’s been in our community for decades and that I have worked with personally for decades. Today, we welcomed the second senior White House official to come to Los Angeles – Jeff Olivet representing President Biden – standing side-by-side, arm-in-arm, as we confront the crisis of 40,000 people living on the street,” said the mayor, who previously welcomed U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to the city.
A few weeks ago at a White House meeting, Bass urged Olivet to include L.A. in the administration’s goal to reduce homelessness in the nation by 25%. Referring to L.A. as the “epicenter of that crisis,” Bass said that assisting Los Angeles would help make “a significant dent in achieving that goal.”
During his daylong visit, the mayor and Olivet toured homeless encampments on the L.A. Skid Row and stopped in on agencies helping unhoused individuals such as L.A. Community Action Network. Also, they traveled to 90th and Figueroa Streets where an Inside Safe program was introduced to replace a large encampment along the freeway off-ramp.
Inside Safe, a housing-focused initiative launched by Bass in December, is designed to permanently bring people inside from tents and encampments and prevent the encampments from returning. City departments work closely with county agencies and service providers to obtain housing for homeless individuals and families.
“People are very thankful to be leaving the streets,” said Bass, who added that the unhoused individuals are temporarily residing in motel rooms, but will eventually live in permanent supportive housing.
“Oftentimes, it’s not just an issue of resources. As I have said all along, if we do not address substance abuse and mental health, we are kidding ourselves in our ability to end homelessness in Los Angeles,” insisted Bass.
“That is why we are at the Asian American Drug Abuse Program – because we wanted to highlight and emphasize the need to have substance abuse treatment as part of the continuum of care. To address this problem, we need to have a complete alignment of every level of government – federal, state, county and the city,” she noted.
Expressing the federal government’s intention to collaborate with the mayor, Olivet said the Biden-Harris administration “set the 25% goal and we can’t get there without Los Angeles making serious progress so we’re very invested in your work.”
In another demonstration of the federal government’s backing in battling homelessness in L.A., HUD recently awarded $60 million in grants and vouchers to aid unsheltered people in the city and county of Los Angeles.
“The $60,000,000 award will support a range of permanent supportive housing options, new models of intensive case management services in partnership with health care providers, and rapid rehousing and crisis-response approaches for the most vulnerable in the community,” said HUD Region IX Regional Administrator Jason Pu, who also attended the Feb. 7 press conference.
Other participants in the meeting and press conference included Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, newly appointed CEO of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LASHA); Mercedes Marquez, chief of housing and homelessness in the Office of the Mayor; Maria Oliva, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness; and Dean Nakanishi, CEO of AADAP.