‘Sadly inadequate’: Why it’s so hard to find a place to sleep in LA

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

‘Sadly inadequate’: Why it’s so hard to find a place to sleep in LA

LA Politics, Homepage News

Dorany Pineda

Dec. 6, 2023

Poor and unreliable data collection by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority makes it “nearly impossible” for unhoused people and the city to know how many temporary beds are available and how many are being used at any given time, according to a new city audit.

Despite having a software-based reservation system for shelter bed availability, LAHSA’s system is so unreliable that the agency monitors bed availability through phone calls and daily emails, the audit found.

The homeless agency also failed to follow up with interim housing providers on their data on the number of sheltered homeless people at any given time, despite evidence of data quality issues. In addition, many shelters have recently reported low bed usage, which may indicate that the number of unhoused people in shelters is being undercounted and that available beds are not being used.

The new audit also found that LAHSA’s Find-a-Shelter app contained inaccurate data and did not attract significant provider participation, limiting its function.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sergio Perez, chief of accountability and oversight at the city controller’s office, said the city and its homeless community need a system as reliable as

share ride

ride hailing apps

where people can do that

view available vehicles in real time and where they are located.

“That is what we need to address the ongoing crisis on our streets today, to meet the real human need of our unhoused neighbors,” Perez said. “It’s what we’re missing.”

Perez said the flaws in the data system raise concerns about LA’s efforts to address the homelessness crisis with urgency and call into question the validity of the city’s efforts not to criminalize poverty.

“If we cannot track temporary shelter beds in a timely manner, we risk violating the Constitution every day, which prohibits governments like the City of Los Angeles from punishing those who live on the streets when they have no other choice. This may be happening in Los Angeles right now,” he said.

City Manager Kenneth Mejia said LAHSA’s dysfunctional system is “not only insufficient to address the broad problem of LA’s homelessness crisis, but in fact last winter when we had severe winter weather, it proved to be completely inadequate.”

According to the report, the homeless organization contracted with 211 LA last winter to respond to requests through its winter shelter hotline and provide referrals to shelters. When 211 employees realized that LAHSA’s bed reservation system was inaccurate, operators were forced to call shelters to verify bed occupancy before making referrals. The process increased wait times for callers and for 211 LA to respond to them.

Phone line workers told auditors they received more than 160,000 shelter-related calls from people in the winter shelter program, but were only able to answer just over 50%.

In a statement released with the report, Mejia said it is critical that the city maximize the use of its “extremely limited supply of temporary housing beds” and that providers know when beds are available.

In the audit, Mejia praised Mayor Karen Bass for declaring the homelessness crisis a state of emergency last year, but pointed out that

the inadequacy of some of the inadequate

available resources to properly address this problem: There are only 16,100 temporary housing beds available for the estimated 46,260 people in the city experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness, according to LAHSA’s 2023 homeless count.

[T]The woefully inadequate amount of temporary and permanent housing resources, as well as outdated and inefficient data collection methods and housing referral processes, significantly hinder the city’s efforts to respond to the crisis with the urgency needed, he said.

In a statement to The Times, LAHSA said the audit comes as the agency works to improve its data practices and improve the accuracy of bed availability.



The new bed availability system, which is in the works, will include detailed tracking of beds, units, grounds and buildings; current occupancy rates; real-time availability of units and beds; and information for service providers about, among other things, all programs in a building.

It will be fully implemented

The system will be fully implemented in December. 31, 2024.

LAHSA added that it is developing a new customer portal that will improve communication tools. People seeking services can see a list of all shelters and access centers; view upcoming appointments; Send case managers a direct message and receive alerts to help them find shelter during emergencies or severe weather.

Collecting and disseminating data is core to LAHSA’s purpose, and we are making significant improvements so we can provide the information that maximizes our transitional housing system and expedites transitions to permanent housing, the agency said.

The city office has recommended that LAHSA, in collaboration with the city, redesign a shelter bed availability system that will facilitate referrals to the shelters. It also suggested that it establish and implement a plan to monitor, evaluate, and enforce requirements for shelter program operators to fully, accurately, and timely report bed attendance and availability data. Finally, it recommended that the agency require operators to participate in the annual count of homeless people who report a bed use rate of less than 65% or more than 105% to accurately count the number of unhoused people in their shelter and determine the number of bed uses to be able to explain.

map with bed availability

. Officials said they hope it will serve as an example for LAHSA if it follows their recommendations.


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