Live (On Tape) Blogging Of The LA Times Forum On Homelessness

Left to right: Steve Lopez, LA Times columnist; LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Shriver, Casey Horan, Lamp Community executive director; LA Police Chief William Bratton, and Dr. Marvin Southard, director of the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

Far more discerning and reverent types than I in attendance tonight in the LA Times’ Chandler Auditorium for a high-powered panel discussion on Los Angeles’ homeless problem certainly won’t mayor.jpgmention that Jeff Johnson, the paper’s publisher, got things started by introducing keynote speaker Mayor Villaraigosa ‚Äî and totally flubbing his last name, finally coming closest to its correct pronounciation on the third try. Maybe the fourth. Antonio stepped up to the lectern and was very forgiving, laughing it off that it wasn’t the first time his name was butchered and it won’t be the last. True, but from the freakin’ top dawg at the Times? Gah!

Sorry… I’m dwelling.

Anyway, what the mayor said about his name can be applied to panels such as tonight’s, moderated by Andr√©s Martinez, the Times’ editorial pages editor: it wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. And in the meantime there are still an estimated 82,000 homeless people on the streets every night. But it’s good they’re talking about it at least, yes? Yes, it is. And pretty much what everyone up on stage talked up as a solution: Mo’ money, and lots of it will be needed. There’s a surprise.

Steve Lopez waxed optimistic about the chances of affecting real change. “I would like to think that this year there‚Äôs a little more momentum. This is a time of great opportunity,” he said.

But it’s gonna take a whole lotta spending money says Lamp Community Executive Director Casey Horan who compared the dollar amounts spent by LA and New York: a paltry $38- $65 million here versus a whopping $700-million plus in the proactive Big Apple. Yikes.

Chief Bratton, who seemed to have either a plant or a very enthusiastic supporter in the back of the full house that clapped loudly everytime he said stuff like “it’s a national disgrace,” and “we‚Äôre not doing them a favor letting them sleep in their own excrement on the sidewalks,” was very gung-ho about New York’s homelessness, which has trended significantly downward from 100,000 in the 1990s to estimated of around 34,000 now.

When asked by Martinez what sense it made to jail the homeless, Sheriff Baca drew applause by agreeing that it made no sense and that that homeless people need to be placed in proper care treatment and LA County Jail is not that place. He pointed to the shelter in Bell that was built as a way they could be diverted from downtown and have their needs attended.

Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver explained his urge to tackle the problem in his city was sustained by the “rage” he felt at both the prevalent “NIMBYism” and in the lack of coordinated services and assistance available to the homeless. Later he apologized for his use of “rage as being “such a rough word.”

Martinez than asked LA County Mental Health Department Director Dr. Marvin Southard what kind of money would be coming from Proposition 63, the measure to expand mental health services that voters passed in the Nov. 2004 election.

“The best news I have is that we received a letter stating that our Services & Supports plan has been approved,” he said. That plan would be fully funded at $250 million, and he’s expecting the first installment of $90 million.

But later, Baca expressed concern over the Prop 63 monies because they hadn’t yet been designated to specific programs and agencies. And who would have the final say over who gets what?

“Ultimately the L.A. County Board of Supervisors,” Southard said.

Towards the end of the discussion selected audience questions were put to the panel. One wondered who should be the champion of this effort to defeat homelessness. Lopez didn’t think there was any one person. “I think every one has to want it,” and he pointed out the exemplary efforts of downtown’s Brady Westwater to connect skidrow dwellers with assistance.

Shriver had a different point of view (as well as an interesting mix of metaphors) about who the white knight is. “It’s Mayor Villaraigosa, full stop. You need someone who‚Äôs going to pound the pavement and he grabbed the bull by the throat and shook it.”


In the end, I think it was a very positive step to see so many honchos in one place focusing on such an important yet oft-overlooked topic. Personally, I would have liked seeing a street-level advocate for the homeless like Ted Hayes take a seat up there and contribute to the dialogue, but that’s coming from a guy who can’t get over a publisher who can’t say the name of the mayor he’s been charged with introducing. Gah!

7 thoughts on “Live (On Tape) Blogging Of The LA Times Forum On Homelessness”

  1. I have to say that the only credible people on that panel who know anything about homelessness was chief Baca and Maybe Chief Bratton.

    When Steve Lopez was writing his articles on Nathaniel Ayers with the help of Lamp he and a case manager violated the confidentiality of Nathaniel by going into detail about his case.

    This forum is just another atempt by the times to save face and do damage control for the LAmp .

    I know many people in skid row who will no longer use their services for fear of LAmp violating their confidentitality and putting their ” kool-aid ” in the La Times.

    SInce when does Steve Lopez become an expert on homelessness , when he didn’t even know about case managers and social workers being bound by confidentiality?

  2. Rhetoric… rhetoric… rhetoric… but most of it said, before… only “framed” and “couched” in a slightly different fashion…

    Maybe… Bobby Shriver may have added some “political” interest to the mix… after all, he is related to the governor’s wife, and indirectly related to “kennedy” money… though “far” removed…

    The only interesting thing that i found them saying, was that “of the “first 50 million dollars” of Prop 63 money, it would only help about 5,000 homeless”, out of the “guess-temated” 83,000 on the streets of the county of l.a., per Dr. Mavin Southard, Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health…

    Hmmm… let’s do the math on that!!!

    How much of that will actually be spent per homeless person, vs spend on administrative red tape, and b.s…

    Wow!… just think what each one of us, might do better ourselves, with about one tenth of that money… buy a house, or a condo, at l a’s inflated real estate prices… at three quaters of a million dollars for the condo, and a million dollars per house… boy that $90 million dollars sure wouldn’t go very far…

    Or even Ted Hayes, who’s Justiceville/Dome Village Project, formerly located on a parking lot, just west of the 405 freeway, and now closed, because the property is worth more money, that Ted could raise, to pay the price-gouging landlord… and who evicted Ted, the homeless people who lived there, and his staff… while the city stood by and did nothing…

    And, because of a “difference” of opinion, between Ted, the city council, the board of supervisors, and police chief Bratton, could not get additional city discretionary funds to keep it going!

    Ted, who was trying to do something for the homeless, and provided transitional housing, and social model support… (through his prototype geodesic domes)… and who was now suing the city for half a million dollars, on behalf of the homeless on the streets of l a, for doing nothing about the problem, but endless talking… a lawsuit, that will now be considered mosly moot… because, his “base of operation” is now lost to the cause…

    Just think what he could have done with several million of those dollars…

    Back to Dr. Southard, and his department’s Services and Support plan… since the County Department of Mental Health has had a hiring freeze for several years, all the while loosing staff throught retirements and attritions… and since this “new plan”… is new… this writer doesn’t anticipate very much being done, until they hire up the several thousand possitions needed and trained, to implement and perform the services…

    Also, the County has been downsizing it’s staff and it’s buildings for several years, due to budget shortfalls… they will now, have to find new buildings, at higher rents, to house the additional staff and programs, associated with this new program roll out…

    I project, that it’ll take at least two or three years, before the “bugs” get worked out of the “new” system, and someone is actually helped…

    Would, that any of those either on the “homeless agencies” side, such as the Director of LAMP, or anyone on the City’s side had the “balls” to admit that!

    And as to the City of Bell, and their “shelter” program… it’s managed by the Salvation Army, with funding from George Bush’s Faith Based Initiatives Plan… that program is primarily, to “move the problem” to a site, out of sight, out of mind… onto a former decommisioned military base… so that nobody has to “see” the homeless anymore…

    I encourage those that read this, to go and “experience” Bell shelter first hand, and make your own decission on that track!

    O.k., there are those reading this who might be thinking “sour grapes”… but then, only jan perry, on who’s district skid row boarders, only allowed a “shelter” to be established at 39 & Broadway Pl, in the warehouse district, when she “saw” how much money she and her district could get from the federal government and sacramento…

    As to PATH, the regional homeless shelter agency… they’re just in it “for the money” as well… as someone, who’s “sampled” the “services” of both of those agencies… the “new image” shelter on 39th and PATH… all i can say… if “these” are the “social model” programs, that are supposed to be the “best practices” prototypes that everything else is to be paterned after… then the might just “build the camps now”… and the “ovens” to go with them!!!

    Oh, and LAHSA, the l a homeless sevices agency, and it’s director, mitchell netburn… better to fire him and his whole staff… and start over… they’ve wasted enough money, that could have been put to better use… to help the homeless… during all the years that that agency’s been around…

    O.k. … i think that i covered most of the “talking points” that they made on the program…

    A final thought… why don’t we declare all the homeless on l a’s streets “terrorists”… maybe then, the government might come up with a “solution” to the problem, and the money to take care of it!

    I’m Almost Done!

    There are those who “know me”… Frank Tamborello & John Farion HCAN and Bob Ehrlenbush of the Los Angeles Coaliton To End Hunger and Homelessness, Mitchell Netburn of LAHSA, Joel John Roberts of PATH, and Brenda S. Wilson of New Image Shelter, who might despute what I’ve said… i DARE THEM!!!

    or Ted Hayes, who thinks that George Bush is a great president… and who’s economic policies have nothing to do with the amount and problem of homelessness in our cities… nationwide…

    O.k. I’m Done!

  3. Hi Will, and thanks for outlining the agenda and goings on that night. I wished I had been there, but it was hell-week for me, and the loss is mine. I am doing a documentary around the issue of homelessness in LA, and you said you got this on tape somehow? I would be VERY interested in hearing what you got, email me, or I email you?

  4. your sudden love affair with the Times is sickening. They are far left and always will be. Steve Lopez is a joke and not to be taken seriously about anything, except on wishing he was Mexican.

  5. What “love affair” Dave? If I was so infatuated with the Times would I have even thought about snarking on the publisher for flubbing Villaraigosa’s name… or dared suggesting that the panel of talking heads might have benefitted from the addition of a homeless advocate like Ted Hayes? Please. I went to their program at their invite and wrote about it. It was worth attending and writing about. That is all.

    As to the Times being “far left and always will be,” at best they’ve been middle-of-the-road but since the exit of Otis Chandler in the ’80s they’ve been marching to a far more conservative drumbeat.

    And your comments about Steve Lopez is just bait I’m not gonna take.

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