A LOOK AT THE NUMBER$ AS LA COUNTY SUPES CONSIDER HOMELESSNESS PLAN ON TUESDAY
The LA County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to launch a comprehensive $100 million effort with the city of LA to help and house thousands of homeless residents. The plan focuses first on housing, then on providing mental health services and substance abuse treatment, increasing employment, and making sure people exiting jail don’t end up on the streets.
But is the problem too big for a $100 million plan? (Or even a $200 million plan, if we include the city’s funds?) According to a report from CEO Sachi Hamai, LA County spent just under $1 billion—$965 million, to be exact—on services for 150,000 of the county’s homeless during fiscal year 2014-2015. And 40% of that amount was spent on just 5% of the homeless population. Hamai will present the report, which includes recommendations for implementing the homelessness plan, to the board during the Tuesday meeting.
The LA Daily News’ Sarah Favot has more on the report. Here’s a clip:
This separate report looks at expenditures, totaling $965 million, made last fiscal year in the county departments of health services, mental health, public health, sheriff, probation and public social services to provide services, benefits and care to homeless individuals. The costs include direct services to individuals, costs for programs and administrative costs.
The report was done at the request of the county’s Homeless Initiative, which is directed by Phil Ansell.
“The report on county services and expenditures for homeless single adults last fiscal year confirms that the county already provides very extensive services for homeless single adults through the mainstream health, social service and criminal justice systems,” Ansell said in an interview.
“The nearly $1 billion expended by the county last year for this population underscores the urgency of taking effective action to combat homelessness as well as the opportunity to more effectively utilize current funding to help people exit homelessness rather than mitigate the consequences of their homelessness.”
The homeless count conducted last year showed that homelessness in the county increased 12 percent in two years. During that count, which is a snapshot of the number of people who were homeless in a given day, 44,359 people were identified as homeless. County departments said they served, through visits to clinics and emergency rooms, food stamp programs and jail bookings, 148,815 people who experienced homelessness for varying times last year.
The report sheds light on the kind of services the homeless population required last year.
More than half of the total spent were for health-related services, with 60 percent of the county’s health spending on homeless single adults for mental health treatment, according to the report.
One in 10 homeless adults were arrested by the Sheriff’s Department last year.
KPCC’s Jacob Margolis has a helpful (quick) list of five things to know about the city and county’s homelessness plans in advance of the Supes’ vote. Here’s a clip:
2. They’re embracing the Housing First model.
There has long been a debate about whether homeless people are “ready” to be successful in housing, and if they’ve earned it. Some have argued that people with drug problems or mental illnesses should be treated for those issues before they are offered anything more than a shelter bed. Others support the “Housing First” model, which argues that a person can not overcome drug dependency or mental illness until they have a safe, reliable home. The city and county have come to support “Housing First” and will put more dollars behind it.
3. The money’s still not there.
The county has already found about $100 million to put toward combatting homelessness in year one, but the city is still in search of their first $100 million. A city report recently found that the City of L.A. alone needs to spend $1.85 billion over 10 years to provide enough housing and services to properly address homelessness. L.A. officials have said they’ll need to find federal, state and county money to help them get there.
OP-ED: WHERE’S THE OUTRAGE AT THE SOUTH LA MURDER OF GERRIK THOMAS?
Late last month, 21-year-old Gerrik Thomas bought a soda at a market near his great-grandmother’s house in South LA. On his way home, he was accosted by two young black men driving by in a car. Instead of responding to the men, Gerrik, who was also black, called his mother to tell her what happened. Minutes later, Gerrik’s mother, Demicha Lofton-Thomas, received a call that her son had been fatally shot.
Gerrik, worked as a security guard near LAX and at LACMA, was enrolled in a nursing program at LA Trade Tech, and dreamed of becoming a doctor. Gerrik was well-liked, and known for his smile, which “would brighten a whole, gloomy day.”
In an op-ed for the LA Times, Michael Krikorian asks why Gerrik’s death, unlike fatal police encounters, received little news coverage and no attention from community leaders, hashtag activists, or politicians. “Is it that Thomas’ death is acceptable?” writes Krikorian. “Does it just come with the territory in South Los Angeles?”
Here’s a clip:
There will be no protest marches organized in Thomas’ memory. No downtown streets will be blocked; the entrances to the Harbor Freeway will remain open. No angry citizens will demand the arrest, trial and conviction of those responsible for his killing.
I get the outrage when a cop kills an unarmed civilian, I get the fury when a video shows what looks like an unnecessary, excessive police shooting. But what I don’t get is why Gerrik Thomas’ death barely signifies. Why isn’t his excessive and unnecessary killing a story? Why are the community, the hashtag leaders, the media and the politicians mostly silent?
I’ve been writing about gang killings in Los Angeles for well over 25 years, and I know these deaths are not acceptable to the families on Grape Street, on Success Avenue, on Brynhurst Avenue. Their pain is as deep as it gets. I know the answer is “no” to the question Reggie Sims, gang interventionist at Jordan Downs, asked about the lack of uproar over the killing of his son several years ago: “Just because he was shot by another black kid, that makes it OK?” I’ve heard that question from at least 100 different relatives of the slain.
By way of an uproar, I’ll tell you a bit about Gerrik Thomas.
If you ask 20 of his friends and family about him, every one will say something about his smile.
Some might describe the tattoo on his right forearm — “Demicha”— his mother’s name. Others will talk about how he took the bus to work as a security guard near the airport or at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. About how respectful he was. That he went to Daniel Webster Middle School and Crenshaw High. That he dreamed of being a doctor and was enrolled at Los Angeles Trade Tech to learn nursing. But all of them will bring up his smile.
PRISONERS LEARN YOGA, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS TO INCREASE SELF-CONTROL, MANAGE STRESS, REDUCE CONFRONTATION, AND LOWER RECIDIVISM
Across the nation, including at California State Prisons, Solano and San Quentin, yoga programs give inmates a place to process their feelings, de-stress, and heal their traumas.
Inmates who participate in the classes say their meditation and yoga practice helps them deescalate confrontations with other prisoners and with staff. Program staff and prison officials hope that the yoga classes give inmates tools to deal with the stress of re-entry, once they’re released. A former inmate at says he continued his yoga practice outside the walls of San Quentin, and it helped him resolve a confrontation with a housemate in a positive way. “I told him I’ve been trying to learn how to resolve issues without the use of violence…I would try to work through it with him positively,” said Adam Verdoux.
Some prisons, including in Oregon and Maryland, are even putting inmates through yoga instructor training to give them employment opportunities post-release.
The Epoch Times’ Amelia Pang has more on the programs and why they are becoming increasingly popular as a relatively low-cost recidivism-reducing strategy. Here’s a clip:
For decades, science journals have documented how meditation can help reduce recidivism. Research shows that yoga and meditation can improve mood, impulse control, concentration, and decision-making skills.
The Prison Yoga Project, founded in 2002, was the first large-scale prison yoga organization of its kind. It has trained more than 1,200 volunteer prison yoga teachers in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Most of Fox’s incarcerated students in California are serving a life sentence with a possibility of parole; most were charged with murder.
“I’ve never felt threatened,” Fox said. “I make it very clear we’re here to create a higher consciousness. If that’s not something they’re interested in they won’t stay. I end up with good guys.”
Apparently there is a high demand for a higher consciousness.
There is a one-year wait list for yoga classes at San Quentin, one of the largest prisons in the nation.
More than 15,000 inmates have requested yoga guidebooks about the philosophical aspects of yoga, such as how to deal with trauma and how to resolve problems with non-violence.
The Prison Yoga Project has mailed more than 15,000 copies of its yoga guidebook to inmates free of charge. (The organization survives on small grants and teacher training fees).
Fox’s class consist of traditional yoga, meditation, conscious breathing, relaxation, and some basic movements. Since it’s tailored for the prison population, it differs from public yoga classes, which are predominately movement-based.
The end goal is for incarcerated men and women to continue peaceful meditation after their release.
“The odds of them enrolling into a yoga studio is very little. They have to find jobs, a place to live, rebuild their lives, reunite with family. Prison yoga is focused on giving them the tools to meditate on their own after leaving,” Fox said. “The greatest feedback I get from people is not about a particular pose they mastered, but that they can disengage from a potential conflict based on what they learned from meditation.”
LOS ANGELES IS ONE OF US ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH’S STOPS ON HER NATIONAL COMMUNITY POLICING TOUR
In the next few months, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch will travel to Los Angeles to highlight the LAPD as an example of successful community policing. (The LA trip date is still listed as to-be-determined, but AG Lynch kicks off her community policing tour in Miami-Dade on Feb 11.) The AG will focus specifically on the LAPD’s use of technology (like body-worn cameras) and social media to “fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency, accountability, and privacy,” according to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing’s final report.
“One of my top priorities as Attorney General is strengthening relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve and protect,” said Lynch. “During the second phase of my Community Policing Tour, I will be highlighting some of the innovative efforts underway around the country to build trust, foster cooperation and enhance public safety.”
But not everyone is happy about the LAPD’s level of transparency and accountability.
Last week, in agreement with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s findings, the LA Police Commission said that the fatal shooting of a mentally ill homeless man, Charlie “Africa” Keunang, was within department policy, and that a Burbank officer acted outside of department policy when he fatally shot a car chase suspect, Sergio Navas.
Acknowledging that the LAPD is unable to release certain information due to a restrictive state law, the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights, an LA Times editorial expressed frustration that the commission had to meet and make those decisions in a closed-session meeting away from the public. Here’s a clip:
Maybe these were the correct decisions. We hope so. Certainly the commission, like the Police Chief, is making an effort to convey that it takes its responsibilities in such cases very, very seriously. But how can Angelenos know for sure whether the commission’s decisions were right or wrong? The details of the incidents were discussed and the decisions made in closed session. The wealth of information available to commissioners is unavailable to the public. Nor will the public be informed whether the officers are being fired or retained. In many cases, the public isn’t even entitled to learn the names of the officers involved in such shootings.
This is not due to some Los Angeles Police Department anti-transparency policy, but because of an overly restrictive state law familiarly known as the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights that was designed to protect the privacy of officers. If the nation has learned any lesson in the wake of a series of police shootings of unarmed African-American since 2014, it is that keeping secrets deepens mistrust.
In the absence of details about past shootings, the department must continue to communicate what it can, including the steps it is taking to reduce the likelihood of future deadly encounters. In the last year, for example, the 60 LAPD officers who work in homeless communities have received 40 hours worth of training in dealing with mental illness. That training is now been expanded to field training officers as well.
In a response to the Times’ editorial, Chief Charlie Beck said the department does everything it can in furtherance of openness and accountability with regard to officer discipline and in accordance with the law. Here’s a clip:
For decades the LAPD has been a leader in providing detailed information regarding serious use-of-force and disciplinary decisions. For example, the department started disclosing the names of officers involved in shootings typically within 72 hours of the incident long before the California Supreme Court required such disclosure by all agencies.
The department also discloses my detailed analyses of incidents and recommendations to the Police Commission. Within days of deliberation, the commission discloses details of the incident and its conclusions. Very few departments in the country provide such in-depth information to the public.
In addition, starting as early as the 1950s, the LAPD conducted open disciplinary hearings for police officers recommended for termination until the state Supreme Court ruled that such disciplinary matters are restricted from public disclosure under state law.