NOTE: This article was originally published by LAist on May30.
It was a big and bold promise by Karen Bass as she campaigned to be LA’s next mayor: get 17,000 unhoused Angelenos into housing during her first year in office.
The homelessness crisis plays out daily on city streets — confronting residents, business owners and visitors with the visible failure of public policy to keep people sheltered and safe.
And this crisis is top of mind for the people who live and work here. When LAist asked Angelenos what issues most urgently needed Mayor Bass’ attention, 63% of respondents said homelessness and a third listed it as their biggest personal stressor.
Homelessness came up so often across our survey that it seems clear that making progress on reducing homelessness could make or break the new mayor’s first term. Another thing that was clear from what we heard, the Bass administration needs to not just make progress on this issue, but make sure that progress is visible and felt by Angelenos.
- Are people being moved out of encampments and into housing?
- Are people staying housed once they move off the streets?
- Is the mayor adequately expediting the bureaucracy to move people into existing housing and make new housing available?
The metrics we’re tracking aren’t a complete picture of everything the Bass administration is doing. — the city has a lot of different programs in place. We chose these metrics because we believe they serve as key indicators of whether progress is being made.
Here’s what we’re paying attention to:
1. Number of people housed in Bass’ first year
Mayor Bass’ main campaign promise is to house 17,000 people during her first year in office, in a combination of interim and permanent housing. Part of this relies on the success of her signature program, Inside Safe, which moves people from encampments into motels to receive services and await permanent housing. The other part requires maintaining, streamlining and expanding existing government housing programs.
An LAist review of the most recent available data shows at least 4,292 Angelenos have been housed so far, 1,205 of whom are part of the Inside Safe program. (This is likely an undercount; we have confirmation as of late April for Inside Safe and May for federal emergency housing voucher leases, but the Bass administration has not released updated figures for other types of housing placements since March.)
2. Number of people who’ve entered and left Inside Safe
Inside Safe is Mayor Bass’ signature homelessness program. While her administration is tracking the number of people moved into Inside Safe as part of that larger goal of housing 17,000 people, they have not released any data on how many people have left the program – either for permanent housing or returning to the streets. The number of people leaving and what type of housing they’re leaving for can be an indicator of how effective Inside Safe is, especially if many people are leaving in order to live on the streets again.
As of April 28, 1,205 people have been moved into Inside Safe. Bass had promised to move 1,000 people into the program by her 100th day in office, which is marked on the chart.
We’ve asked the Bass administration for departure numbers, but they have not released them. So we’re crowdsourcing this data. Here’s how to tell us if you or someone you know has left Inside Safe.
3. Total cost of the Inside Safe program over time
Mayor Bass did not make specific promises about how much her homelessness efforts would cost, but looking at expenses for programs like Inside Safe can give an idea about how efficiently they’re being run.
According to a May 16 report from the City Administrative Officer, Inside Safe has incurred $12.8 million in expenses out of a budget of $50 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, with 1,205 people placed into motels as of April 28. Bass requested an additional $250 million for Inside Safe for the upcoming fiscal year, which the City Council approved on the condition that she provide at least two reports a month on program outcomes and how the money is being spent. LAist previously reported that Bass’ team had not been providing biweekly reports on Inside Safe’s spending and outcomes as originally required.
4. Number of federal emergency housing vouchers leased
The federal government issued 3,365 emergency vouchers for housing to LA in July 2021 to help with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These particular vouchers were for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, as well as those fleeing domestic violence or human trafficking. Those who receive a voucher can spend 30% of their income on rent and utilities, and the rest is paid for by the government.
Because of red tape, the city was extremely slow moving voucher holders into permanent housing in the year after the vouchers were issued. Only 918 vouchers had been leased by the time Bass came into office in December 2022. She promised to move the remaining voucher holders into permanent housing by the end of her first year.
As of late May, the city had leased out 1,042 additional federal emergency housing vouchers, according to the city’s Housing Authority. That means she has 1,405 vouchers remaining.
5. Number of housing units completed under Proposition HHH
Proposition HHH, the 2016 voter-approved measure to allocate $10 million in funding for 10,000 permanent housing units in L.A. in a 10-year span, has come under heavy criticism in recent years for being above cost projections and behind schedule. Two thousand Prop HHH units were scheduled to come online in 2023, but Bass promised to fast track development even more and have 3,000 new units ready by the end of her first year in office.
When Bass began her term, 2,149 HHH units had been completed in total. According to figures from the LA. Housing Department, 781 additional HHH units have been completed as of late April. The department updates progress on HHH construction on a monthly basis.
6. Number of people experiencing homelessness in L.A. over time
It’s important to note that Mayor Bass never promised to reduce the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in LA — after all, many people fall into homelessness every day. And factors that contribute to homelessness like eviction laws, the overall housing supply and the drug crisis are out of her control. Still, comparing Bass’ efforts against the backdrop of the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in LA. underscores how big a problem this is and what still needs to be done.
As of 2022, the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count reported 41,980 unhoused people in Los Angeles — 13,522 sheltered and 28,458 unsheltered. This count is done annually, so we’ll only be able to update this once a year. The 2023 count was conducted in January, with results expected to be released this summer.
What comes next
We’ll aim to update these metrics once every three months, possibly more often if data releases become more frequent. That means our next update will be on or around Sept. 1. Many of Bass’ specific campaign promises were only for her first year in office, which ends in December 2023, so once that first year is over we’ll ask her to update her goals on these metrics and recalibrate the tracker.
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