- This is where I would come through.
Today I have 10 months clean.
10 months clean.
Martha took me to my rehab.
She took me far away from here
so I wouldn't leave.
But I think she knew I wanted it.
She said, "Make sure that you want to go to rehab
when you call me cause I'll make sure you go."
And she wasn't lying.
She got me into rehab within a week.
And I've been clean ever since.
- I've been in this field of homelessness
and drug addiction for 25 plus years.
I got tired staying behind a desk waiting
for families or individuals to come and see me
so I wanted to go out and engage them.
Meet them where they're at.
See how really,
how people really do live on the street,
in the riverbeds, in the mountains,
in the canyons, up in the trees.
That's what I wanted to see.
And I wanted to see
how I could help them to get a home.
(soft piano music)
- Martha's the real star of the show today.
This is her territory.
Los Angeles is broken up into eight service planning areas.
Martha's been working the northeast LA quadrant
since almost the beginning, right Martha?
This has been your beat?
The number of people experiencing homelessness
in Los Angeles County alone
exceeds the total number in many states across the nation.
And so we definitely have our work cut out for us.
We are sending teams that are familiar
with their local geographies and resources.
Homelessness in the deserts of Lancaster
looks very different than homelessness in Skid Row
which looks very different than homelessness
in Hollywood or on Venice Beach.
So she knows all the major encampments
all the service providers
both the official LAHSA funded ones
and all of the groups
that are providing services on their own.
Stitching together a quilt of resources
to support our clients in a very resource scarce area.
- [Martha] Good morning, Tina.
- [Victor] We're back!
So we're here with the LA homeless services.
We're here to chat with you,
if there's anything we can help you out with.
We're connecting with Tina next door here.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
performs a lot of functions here in Los Angeles.
We receive federal, state, and local funding
and then we distribute it to local service providers
across the county.
We also have a really strong planning
and systems department
that looks at best practices for homeless service delivery
and makes sure that all of our funded providers
are aligned with those best practices
to make sure that we're delivering services
in an effective and coordinated fashion.
We have over 150 outreach workers
on the street conducting direct service street outreach
across the county.
Good morning, Michael.
How's it going?
We're just getting you your ID voucher here.
Yoshanda mentioned that you guys would be able to
head down to the DMV on your own
but if you do need any help getting down there,
just talk to Martha
and we can help you out with that as well.
- Oh, I've been homeless since May of 2019.
It's my first time,
second time being homeless.
In 2006 I was homeless for one day.
This is a nightmare.
What I would tell people
who have managed to keep a roof
over their head
or keep shelter at all given times in their life,
I would say, "God bless"
and "You're lucky."
And God forbid that anything should happen
to any more of us here in this country
because it's an epidemic.
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition
recently put out a study that showed that in California
there's only 22 affordable units
for every 100 extremely low income households
So there's a huge gap in the need there.
They've also issued a recent report that shows
that you need to work three full time jobs
at minimum wage
to afford the rent in an average two bedroom.
So there's just a huge gap in what housing costs
and what people are able to afford.
That's a tragic statistic that really is scary
when you think about where we're going in Los Angeles.
We need to be funding more prevention services
to keep people in the housing they have.
That's a renter protection.
A right to council for folks who are being evicted
would be excellent to help keep people
in the housing they have,
and start to slow down the numbers
of newly homeless folks
who just simply can't afford their rent.
Unless we can find solutions
for these people,
we're going to continue seeing more
and more people falling into homelessness.
- So I had my tent right here.
I think my name's still back there.
Yeah like Meme.
So this is where I lived.
I lived here for five years
on and off.
It was very hard living here, you know?
Especially like when the rains came
There's dangers at dark.
There's a lot of spots where people could hide
and hurt you if you don't really know
these parts, you know?
There's showers right there.
So I decided just to put a shower in here.
So I put a curtain.
And cover all this.
And I put a bunch of rocks right here.
I would bring water from the park
or from the apartment
in five gallon jugs.
And I'd have to drag them up the river wall
to shower with clean water.
- People who think homelessness is a choice,
if you only knew what it took to get out of this situation,
and the longer you're in it,
the harder it becomes.
And everything is so much more difficult
when you're homeless.
If you work and you're homeless
and you're sleeping in you car,
how much earlier do you have to wake up
to go to a gym where you've got your monthly membership
to shower, to change, to shave or put your make up on,
or find a safe place for all of your belongings
that you can't take with you,
that could potentially not be there when you return.
And you're doing all of this through the fear of violence,
of not knowing maybe where you're going to sleep tonight,
where you're going to get your next meals.
It's so traumatizing
and then to say that this is a choice is just,
it just really frustrates me.
It is so difficult to get out of homelessness.
If you're doing everything right,
if you're able to maintain your job.
If you're working with an outreach team.
If you're shooting out the housing applications
it still takes people weeks, months, years
to get out of it.
And then the longer you're on the street,
the more difficult everything becomes
and the more susceptible you are to fall into addiction,
to fall into a mental health crisis,
and then that can really just set you backwards
and undo a lot of progress that you've made
and it's not a choice.
Today we're in Elysian Park
where they come every single Wednesday
and provide showers
to folks experiencing homelessness nearby.
And it makes such a difference
when someone's able to take a shower,
come out feeling clean and refreshed.
Get a clean pair of clothes
and now we can have conversations
where folks really are being able to picture,
what are my long term goals,
where do I see myself in a year,
in five years from now?
And what steps do I need to take today
in this week, in next month
in order to move towards those goals.
In a way that you can really start to conceptualize
what you want your life to look like in the future.
It feels like such a basic thing
that we all take for granted,
but I promise you,
if you don't shower for a couple of days, you feel it.
You feel different,
and then you expound that by a week, a month,
if you just don't have access to showers,
can be so difficult
and so we're really, really happy to be partnered
with Shower of Hope
and with the city to bring these services
to people who need them.
- Ten month ago, I gave birth to my daughter,
I almost gave birth in the tent.
Oh my God we prayed.
It was the hardest thing ever.
It was hardest even bathing was a mission,
and it was so hard.
I was constantly doing things,
fixing up my tent,
making sure I don't get wet, making sure I wasn't cold.
It was really depressing as a woman being out here.
I had to stay on my toes.
I knew what every,
how every leaf sounded when you stepped on it.
I knew how the river sounded.
If somebody was walking up the wall,
And then right here where it's level,
this is where my tent was.
I had a big tent, a patio.
There's my Christmas tree!
Remember I tell you I had a Christmas tree here?
I had a Christmas tree right here
and I used to sit here
and I used to paint.
You know when you're a little kid
and you go back to your home where you grew up,
this was kind of like that.
I think that if that baby wouldn't have been born,
I would probably still be here.
I think I would still be out here.
- The benefits to getting somebody off the sidewalk
and into housing are obvious
for that person experiencing homelessness.
But that's really the only way to address the concerns
that we're hearing from the house constituents,
and house community members to get rid of the encampments
that they don't want to see in their communities.
The only answer is move people into permanent housing.
Criminalization is not the answer.
That is not a long term solution.
The amount of money
that it costs to do clean ups
in homeless encampments is not insignificant.
If we were paying somebody's rent in affordable unit,
that would actually save the tax payers money
that's already being spent to keep people
on the streets.
And we really need to use those funds and those resources
to get people into permanent housing
as the true sustainable solution to this crisis.
- Housing is opportunity.
Housing is something to call your own,
somewhere where you go and nobody's kicking you out.
You don't have to get up early to leave,
to pack up and go.
You don't have to worry about the park rangers coming,
the police coming and taking all your stuff.
It's somewhere I could just go home,
throw my shoes here,
throw my shirt there,
and I know that when I get home it's going to be there.
- When we're able to place somebody
through one of our housing interventions,
we have almost a 95% success rate
over the course of two years.
The folks haven't returned to ask
for additional homeless services.
That really indicates how successful
those permanent housing placements have been.
- So now since I've left the program
and I got clean,
I'm 10 months clean,
I just came up on 10 months,
as a matter of fact,
what is today, the 11th?
Today I have 10 months clean.
Clean and sober,
I'm on my way to get my new apartment.
I already got housing thanks to Martha
she takes me to the mental health Pacific Clinic.
I'm closing DCFS case in April
and I have a job.
I work at Homewood Industries.
I already completed the first portion of my GED,
so I'm in school
and hopefully I'll be attending college.
It's all thanks to the outreach work
that Martha did,
you know like hounding me down.
- This is a very rewarding and blessing job
that God has provided for me to have again.
He took me out of the darkness
and I would like for them to have the same.
A better future for their kids,
and this is why I do this work.
It's very rewarding.
If I have money,
I would do this for free.
It's a blessing to see the outcomes of my clients.
They have a lot of respect for me
and I respect them as human beings.
Cause we're all people
and we just need a little help
to get us to where we need to get to.
- You know what,
whatever problem I have,
she advocates for me.
She advocates for me.
She gives me advice.
She's more than a case manager to me.
She's like my family.
That's what she grew to be, family.
Cause not even my own family helped.
But this lady did, you know?
- And so this really is a crisis.
There isn't enough affordable housing.
We're getting people off the streets and back into housing,
but just not quickly enough,
not at the rate that people are falling into homelessness.
So we need everybody in this fight together.
We need everybody's support.
That goes for the professional outreach workers,
the service providers, our elected officials,
but also just the general community
and the public.
One of the most important things the public can do to help
is support solutions.
support permanent affordable housing,
support interim housing
in your community.
Support the services
that meet the basic needs
of people experiencing homelessness
like showers or access to restrooms.
Call your elected representative
and let them know that you do want these services
in your community to help address
those public health concerns that you may have.
You can volunteer.
There's amazing community based non-profit organizations
doing work in your community everyday.
Find those organizations and volunteer
or donate to them.
They need a lot of help
and a lot of resources to do this work.
And by coming together and looking at solutions,
that's the only way
that we're going to find ourselves coming out
of this crisis.