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How Other Cities Have Tackled Homelessness

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The Way Home, a special episode of SoCal Connected, will examine sustainable solutions for ending homelessness, including permanent supportive housing for the 47,000 homeless in Los Angeles. Tune in Tuesday, February 28 at 8:00 p.m. PT (see more airdates).​

City and county officials declared Los Angeles’ homelessness problem had reached crisis proportions in 2015 when the number of homeless individuals had risen to more than 44,000 countywide and despite action taken by city and county officials, according to recent estimates, that number has increased to nearly 47,000 in 2016. Although hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated in 2016 to tackle homelessness through city, county and federal funds and Proposition HHH, a tax measure approved by city voters in November, would raise $1.2 billion for permanent and transitional housing for the homeless, large numbers of individuals remain homeless because plans to create the housing and homeless services needed are moving along at a snail’s pace.

Growing income inequality, shortages of affordable housing and pockets of post-apocalyptic-looking encampments next to gleaming luxury housing developments are not exclusive to Los Angeles and are being seen in metropolitan areas across the nation and around the world. But unlike Los Angeles, many cities are moving fast to get their homeless populations off the streets and into housing by creating efficient models that Los Angeles could consider following.

Tiny House Nickelsville Seattle | Photo: Flickr/cactusbones/Creative Commons

A homeless count taken early last year by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness determined more than 4,500 people were without shelter, a 19% increase from the year before. That year, the city declared a homelessness emergency and proposed building 1,000 tiny houses with insulation and locks in camps across Seattle’s seven council districts. So far, Seattle has managed to build 28 houses of which have helped 300 homeless people into permanent or transitional housing, reports the Seattle Times.

In 2005, Utah was the first state to implement the housing first model statewide, which gets homeless people into housing first and provides assistance for their mental health and substance abuse issues after. By 2015, homelessness was reduced by 91% and officials declared that the state had nearly wiped out chronic homelessness. The housing first approach has proven to lead to lower rates of return to homelessness and reduce public costs stemming from emergency room visits and incarceration. 

In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development certified that Austin has ended veteran homelessness. Through private and federal funding, Austin has been able to house 682 veterans since 2014 using the housing first strategy.

Homes for Londoners
Homes for Londoners | Photo:

Since Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London in 2016, he has launched Homes for Londoners, a plan that brings together local councils, housing associations and developers to bring more affordable housing to London. In November, Mayor Khan secured more than 3 billion pounds to start building 90,000 affordable housing units over the next 5 years. The new homes will be for sale and for rent.

San Jose
In January, the San Jose City Council approved a $16 million loan to a developer and a homeless agency to build and run the city’s first homeless high rise, reports CBS SF Bay Area. Formerly a hotel, the six-story-tall, 84 unit proposed building would also provide provide homeless services, including drug and mental health counseling.

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