Since its incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has recognized its role, historically and currently, as a refuge for LGBT individuals who are rejected by their families and home communities. LGBT youth and adults come to West Hollywood seeking safety and self-determination, but sometimes lack adequate support networks and end up without housing. Many shelters are not equipped to house transgender individuals and, historically, homeless services have not been inclusive of the needs of LGBT youth and adults.
In addition, West Hollywood has a significant population of older adults who are 65 years and older and 30.8% of them are living below the poverty line. Older adults on fixed incomes often face the harsh realities of the high cost of life essentials, such as food and medical care. In West Hollywood, these individuals are often renters and can be at risk of homelessness if they lose their housing, if household expenses change, or if they are no longer able to live independently.
The city uses a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative approach to address the challenges associated with homelessness. In 2016, the city council approved the establishment of guiding principles for the city’s response to homelessness and formed a council subcommittee to address the issue. The West Hollywood Homeless Initiative was created shortly thereafter with dedicated staffing, and has since created the City’s Strategic Initiatives Division as a permanent home for this work. The city aims to address homelessness through a collaborative approach with Los Angeles County that includes preventing households from entering homelessness, subsidizing housing, increasing income, providing case management and other supportive services, creating a coordinated system, and increasing the availability of affordable housing.
The Homeless Initiative is a multi-pronged approach to addressing homelessness and the collaboration among elected officials, city staff, contracted non-profit providers, law enforcement, and the constituency is an example of how a small city can tackle a large, complex social problem with precision and compassion. The following city departments and divisions are tasked with executing policies and programming to aid in the initiative:
The West Hollywood COPPS (Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving) and Community Impact teams are trained to address the impacts of homelessness and to provide a compassionate, yet clear, response to homeless community members. In addition, the city funds a full-time mental health clinician to partner with a specially trained deputy to form a Mental Health Evaluation Team.
The city’s 2017-2018 budget included $4.8 million in contracts with social services providers, of which $1.2 million is allocated to services to directly address homelessness. The contracts provide the city with street outreach teams, shelter beds, case management services, education and employment programs, substance abuse treatment and medical and mental health care.
The city’s homeless street outreach services include linkages to care and substance recovery services, such as Step Up on Second’s Mobile Interdisciplinary Team (MIT) program that brings a team together to work with individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The team is comprised of a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, licensed vocational nurse, licensed clinical social worker, an alcohol and drug counselor, and a peer advocate; focusing on the “hardest to reach” homeless community members.
West Hollywood was one of the first of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County to survey its homeless community members to better understand the people and experiences of those living on the streets. In 2017, in partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and non-profit agency partners, the city collected demographic data and compared them to county-wide statistics and found that the city’s homeless population is much different than that of the county. The survey results showed that West Hollywood’s homeless initiative needed to be specifically tailored to the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities, mental health issues, and HIV.
Other engagement strategies include:
Homeless Services web page
West Hollywood, CA– 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation
Strategic Initiatives Manager, City of West Hollywood
8300 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069