Homeless Initiative- West Hollywood, CA

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community-police relations, Economic development, Health equity, Housing, Social services
  • Engagement Approaches Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Partnering with residents, Surveys and data, Trust building, Youth Engagement
Project Description

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Homeless Initiative

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.


  1. To connect community members experiencing homelessness to appropriate services
  2. To respond to community impacts due to homelessness; and
  3. To provide opportunities for community education and engagement.

Project Summary:
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:

  • Public Safety Department and Law Enforcement
    The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station has committed to education and training for all deputies and supervisors through a comprehensive Crisis Intervention Training that gives them additional tools to deal with a population that is impacted by mental health and substance abuse issues.

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.

  • Social Services and Strategic Initiatives Divisions
    The City of West Hollywood commits funding and staff resources in support of a robust social services program to address the needs of its most vulnerable community members, including outreach, substance abuse treatment, mental health programming and housing for homeless individuals.

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.

  • Housing and Rent Stabilization Division
    West Hollywood city policy promotes the development and preservation of a diverse housing stock. To achieve this goal, the city reserves units for the community’s most vulnerable households: seniors, those with very low-incomes, individuals with disabilities, and those living with HIV.

Engagement Strategies:
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:

  • The Public Safety Department and law enforcement work closely with the city’s neighborhood watch groups and resident associations, and responds to the residential and commercial impacts of homelessness in West Hollywood.
  • The city created a strategic partnership with the Los Angeles County Library and the city’s contracted social service agencies to successfully launch an on-site homeless outreach operation at the West Hollywood Library.
  • The city developed an awareness campaign about the Homeless Initiative that included bus shelter advertising, new services cards for use by the city’s contracted outreach teams, and information cards for residents and businesses about who to call for various homeless-related concerns.
  • A “Concern Line” was established for people to call to express concern and provide information regarding people experiencing homelessness in the city.
  • The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has a Committee on Homelessness that leads efforts to educate the business community about how to respond to homelessness in the city and to coordinate assistance to people who are homeless in West Hollywood, including job opportunities with local businesses.
  • The city holds regular collaborative meetings with homeless service providers and HIV and substance abuse service providers. These meetings served as focus groups for the discussion of issues and proposals for new and continued city attention to the barriers facing individuals who are homeless in West Hollywood.
  • The planning team engaged with individuals experiencing homelessness during the City’s Homeless Connect Day at West Hollywood Park. Community members also received health assessments, service intakes, substance abuse counseling, HIV testing, Hepatitis A and flu vaccinations and free haircuts.


  • In the 2017-2018 social services contract year, the city provided services to a total of 660 people experiencing homelessness and 26 individuals were placed in permanent, supportive housing.
  • The city contracts with a homeless shelter for adults and one for LGBT youth and there were 2,124 bed nights for homeless adults and 4,172 bed nights for homeless youth.
  • In the 2017-2018 contract year, the city provided rental assistance to 116 people living with HIV who were at risk of homelessness and provided rental assistance to 25 other at-risk community members.
  • In 2018, there were 553 community members–mostly older adults and people with disabilities–enrolled in case management services.
  • In the 2017-2018 contract year, 74 transgender and non-binary individuals were served by the Transgender Economic Empowerment Program.
  • From October 1, 2017 through September 18, 2018, 309 homeless individuals were contracted by the West Hollywood Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) and Community Impact teams.

Additional Resources:
Homeless Services web page
West Hollywood, CA– 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation

Local Contact
Corri Planck
Strategic Initiatives Manager, City of West Hollywood
8300 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 848-6430
[email protected]

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