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Audit Finds LA Falls Short In Reducing Homelessness

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Nearly 60,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County. Now a new audit finds that the main agency that's in charge of dealing with the crisis is falling far short of its own goals for getting people off the street. Anna Scott from member station KCRW has more.

ANNA SCOTT, BYLINE: Homelessness is the No. 1 municipal issue for many people in LA. In charge of fighting the crisis is the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA, which gets funding from the city and county to run their homelessness programs. But when it comes to one of its basic jobs - connecting with people on the streets and linking them to things like shelters, mental health treatment and long-term housing - the authority isn't doing a good enough job according to a new report by LA City Controller Ron Galperin.

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RON GALPERIN: We found that the outreach efforts in the city of Los Angeles are not where they should be. In most areas, LAHSA failed to even come close to achieving the goals that were set out.

SCOTT: For example, of all the people that outreach workers tried to help within city limits in the past fiscal year, they aimed to place 10% in permanent housing but only ended up housing 4%. The authority aimed to connect 25% of people who reported having mental health needs to treatment but only connected 4% to help.

Officials with the Homeless Services Authority dispute the findings and say the report looks at one small slice of what they do. They also say that identifying people on the streets who need help is important. But to really solve LA's homelessness crisis, elected officials need to create more affordable housing. Heidi Marston is LAHSA's chief program officer.

HEIDI MARSTON: We can't lose sight of the permanent housing at the end that really is going to be the true way that we resolve homelessness in LA.

SCOTT: To combat homelessness and housing instability, one report found that LA needs more than half a million affordable apartments to meet existing demand from low-income renters.

For NPR News, I'm Anna Scott in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.