County to explore master leasing motels for interim housing for chronically homeless

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County to explore master leasing motels for interim housing for chronically homeless

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week unanimously approved a proposal by Board Chair Janice Hahn to explore master leasing agreements with motels across the county in order to use rooms as interim housing for chronically homeless individuals. The County will also evaluate whether the same motel parking lots could be sites for “Safe Parking” programs.

The proposal aims to better enable the County to assist chronically homeless individuals. Those living in encampments would be offered interim housing in motel rooms that the County leases. Once the individuals are in a motel room, caseworkers would be able to offer wraparound services while they work with the client to find them permanent housing.

“It is hard to find affordable long-term housing for chronically homeless individuals, but we cannot let that stand in the way of helping the people who need us,” Hahn said. “Using motel rooms as interim housing allows us to help people off of the streets quickly and buys us time while we work to find them a long-term home.”

Hahn said she has already used the model effectively. In late April, CalTrans ordered homeless individuals to leave an encampment in the Whittier Greenbelt. The County entered a master lease agreement with a local motel to provide dozens of individuals with rooms while caseworkers from Whittier First Day assisted them with long-term housing. Many of the individuals have already moved into affordable or permanent supportive housing while caseworkers continue to work closely with the remaining individuals, Hahn said.

Los Angeles County often uses motel vouchers as a tool to assist homeless individuals and families, according to the Board. However, individual motel rooms are normally secured on a case-by-case basis– a process that costs time and resources, according to Hahn.

“Helping a chronically homeless person off of the streets and into a permanent home is challenging, time-consuming work– but it is all the more difficult when caseworkers also have to secure individual motel rooms for their clients one at a time,” Hahn said. “By leasing motel rooms in bulk across the county, we can quickly increase the number of interim housing units that we can offer to people as a comfortable, safe alternative to encampments.”

In addition, Hahn asked the CEO’s office and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to examine whether the same motels’ parking lots could be used for “Safe Parking,” a program that allows homeless people living in cars to park in a safe, secured parking lot overnight where they can get connected with services and caseworkers who can help them out of homelessness.

The Board will receive a report in 30 days with a plan to identify at least one motel in each Service Planning Area that the County can enter master leasing agreements with. The CEO’s office, LAHSA and the Departments of Health and Mental Health will also evaluate the feasibility of turning motel parking lots into Safe Parking sites. The plan will include evaluation of the cost of outreach workers, security and services at each site.