L.A. County adopts comprehensive homeless service plan for families

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By Greg Asciutto

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Feb. 18 to approve the implementation of the Homeless Family Solutions System (HFSS), a program designed to improve regional access to shelter and other social services for homeless families.

Spearheaded by the Department of Public Social Services and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the HFSS will combine three formerly independent county homeless service programs – Homeless CalWORKs Families Project, Emergency Shelter & Services and Family Solution Centers – and absorb the $10.2 million of federal and state funding allocated to them.

The vote comes after an eight-month effort by local service providers to create a single, comprehensive plan to address the needs of parents and children affected by homelessness. Through the new HFSS, those individuals can now find rapid rehousing, crisis management, subsidized employment and other services at one-stop shops called Family Solution Centers (FSCs).

“Families used to have to go around the entire county every day looking for services, knocking on doors, getting ‘no’ as answers, because this shelter wants you to have a degree, that other shelter wants you to have kids this age,” said Christine Glasco, director of Santa Monica-based Upward Bound House. “This changes all of that — it allows families to have access to hubs.”

There are currently 11 FSCs scattered around L.A. County, but the HFSS approval calls for two more centers in the currently underserved East L.A. and South Bay communities. Additionally, LAHSA will extend its outreach to Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale, cities that were previously outside of the organization’s jurisdiction.

Under the HFSS plan, each FSC will put families through a two-step process during which social workers assess their immediate and long-term needs. Upon a family’s admission to a center, a First Response Team will address the pressing issues of emergency shelter, child safety and health. Following that primary evaluation, a case manager will work with each family until they find permanent housing and mental, physical and economic stability.

“Homelessness, as we know, isn’t just about housing — it is about all of the coordinated services that go with it,” said First District Supervisor Gloria Molina. “Here we have a program that recognizes and understands that you have to build around this family.”

According to the 2013 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, there are 7,391 homeless family members in L.A. County, roughly 13 percent of the total homeless population of 58,423. Though that number is still alarmingly high, family homelessness decreased by 28 percent between 2011 and 2013, while overall homelessness increased by 16 percent.

LAHSA and other service providers say the centralized, community-based approach of the HFSS plan will continue to bring that number down and provide families with the resources they need to stay off the streets.

“Because we’ve decided to take a step from being program-focused to system-focused, what we’re seeing are better, quality results in the housing of families,” said Kirkpatrick Tyler, program manager at the Weingart Center for the Homeless on Skid Row. “We’re able, as a community, to wrap around and work with that family to make sure they get the support that they need.”

To read the Homeless Family Solutions System plan outline in its entirety, click here.

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