When the City of Los Angeles and LA County huddle to clean up a neighborhood, they’re doing more than just that, they’re also offering homeless services like never before. At a joint news conference today (Aug. 8, 2014), at LA City Hall’s South Lawn. 14th District LA Councilman Jose Huizar lead the march with a joint groundbreaking homeless service program.
Collaborative of Huizar, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas goes beyond street cleaning, providing intensive sanitizing of streets and sidewalks. Huizar represents Skid Row on the City Council and Ridley-Thomas represents the majority of the area on the County’s Board of Supervisors.
Nicknamed Operation Healthy Streets, the program was initiated by the LA Department of Public Works two years ago and includes an intensive, multi-day cleaning of the Skid Row streets and sidewalks. The mandatory cleanup also comes with new assistance from the City of LA and LA County Dept. of Mental Health. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) plans to reached out daily to the homeless and other squatters to inform them of the cleaning and ask them move their belongings in advance.
“LAHSA is proud to partner with the City and County on Operation Healthy Streets, improving the health and safety of the homeless men and women who live in the Skid Row community in downtown Los Angeles,” said Executive Director Michael Arnold. “We know the long term solution to homelessness is housing; while we seek permanent solutions and address the significant lack of housing opportunities for homeless men and women, Operation Healthy Streets provides critical services to address public health risks and helps connect people living on the streets to needed services and housing.”
Los Angeles has long struggled with one of the largest homeless populations in the country, much of it concentrated in a one-square-mile section of Downtown Los Angeles. The City has enlisted the help of the County to provide social, medical and mental health services to people living on the streets in advance of the City of Los Angeles’ street cleaning under its $3.7 million funded Operation Healthy Streets initiative.
“While Operation Healthy Streets has been a success, it is literally dealing with a surface issue and cleaning the streets is simply not enough,” said Councilmember Huizar. “To uplift this community we need to address the overwhelming human need in the area. Skid Row and Downtown Los Angeles are uniquely challenged in dealing with the issue of homelessness and I thank Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for helping the City make these Operation Healthy Streets (OHS) is a City-initiated program launched in 2012 to address public health risks in the Skid Row area of Downtown Los Angeles.
The program’s initial focus was on eliminating hazards that posed immediate health threats to those encamped on the sidewalks of Skid Row. The initiative was in response to a report issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that identified public health risks presented by Skid Row’s street and sidewalk conditions. The City/County collaboration aims to bring a much more service-focused approach to those efforts.
“The goal is to supplement the City's Operation Healthy Streets effort with intensive and directed social, medical and mental health services that we can offer directly to individuals on the streets,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
Starting this week, leading up to the next Operation Healthy Streets street cleaning on August 13th, multiple County and City agencies will go out in advance to offer health and housing services to individuals currently living on the streets in the areas designated for cleaning next week. The cleanups and service outreach will continue every other month.
City and County agencies involved in the multi-step effort include the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, County Department of Health Services, County Department of Public Health, L.A. City Attorney’s office, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the City of L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation.
“Protection of public health and the environment is at the core of L.A. Sanitation's mission,” said City of L.A. Sanitation Director Enrique C. Zaldivar. “We are proud to be a lead agency in the Operation Healthy Streets Skid Row initiative.” As in previous OHS cleanings, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) will conduct daily outreach leading up to the cleanups in affected areas to inform those on the street of the intensive cleaning, requesting they remove their belongings in advance.
Among other services, on-site health screenings, TB testing, drug and alcohol treatment placements, medical transport and Medi-Cal enrollment are all planned to be provided. With the expanded effort, LAHSA will serve as the lead coordinating agency for outreach.