L.A. is creating 500 new housing units with this smart plan.
In 2015, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency because of their "unprecedented and growing homelessness crisis."
Since then, L.A. city and county agencies have executed a series of actions, and while homelessness overall has had a slight rise in 2016 — not quite 6% over 2015 figures — the number of veterans without homes has gone down 30%, meaning over 1,200 have obtained places to live.
L.A.'s most recent undertaking is different, though: The city will convert old motels into 500 permanent apartments for veterans who are homeless.
If everything goes according to plan, the 500 units, built with help from Step Up, will be available for veterans to move into by January 2017. Coupled with the 300 units the city already provides to homeless residents, L.A. is on track to create 800 permanent housing units annually.
Repurposing old living spaces as housing for people who are homeless is an unusual idea but not a new one.
The nonprofit homeless housing agency Step Up is helping to facilitate about 400 of L.A.'s motel conversions, and they've been working on developing housing for people on the streets since 1994.
One of Step Up's other transitional apartment conversions — Step Up on Vine in Hollywood — has 34 housing units, and it's been a raging success. Occupants are provided supportive services and may live there as long as they like.
This new housing for homeless veterans in L.A. will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis — hopefully soon.
Step Up plans to use a combination of L.A.'s homeless services registry and their own outreach and engagement team (which actively canvasses the city looking for those in need) to place residents in the new buildings.
This is all part of the city’s plan to achieve a homeless population of functional zero, which means that the number of people who are homeless entering the city every month should be no greater than their monthly housing placement rate.
In addition to the motels, L.A. also has an ambitious 47-point plan for working with the city's ever-growing homeless population in the next few years.
In addition to creating new housing for people on the streets, L.A. has worked to incentivize landlords to make units available those in need. Some of those incentives include guaranteed rent payments and bonuses for holding open housing for someone coming from the streets, too.
"But you can only incentivize so much," said Ben Winters, housing policy specialist for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The next step is to build more housing."
Building housing isn’t cheap, so the city’s annual budget calls for $138 million to be used to address homelessness.
And there already are encouraging signs that the effort will really work. When the state of emergency was announced, there were approximately 4,362 veterans who were homeless in L.A. In May 2016, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority reported that had decreased to 3,071.
Plus, 500 new units coming soon means 500 more veterans will be off the streets in the months ahead. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on.