Los Angeles’ head of homelessness is throwing in the towel after five years on the job, an era marked by a drastic increase in homeless residents despite $1 billion spent to address the problem.
Peter Lynn, head of the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, announced on Monday that he will resign effective Dec. 31. The city’s homeless population swelled by 33% since Lynn took over to nearly 60,000 people sleeping on the streets, in vehicles or makeshift shelters this summer, Reuters reports.
“Over these five years of explosive growth, LAHSA deployed more than $780 million in new funding to address homelessness,” Lynn wrote in a prepared statement. “We doubled our staff and then doubled it again.”
“We built and rebuilt our internal infrastructure, and worked with our community-based providers to expand theirs,” he said.
Despite those efforts, Lynn told local officials this year the homeless population in the LA area jumped by 12% from 2018, mostly because successful efforts to find thousands of folks permanent homes was outpaced by the numbers of those losing their homes, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Boy, these have felt like some long five years,” Lynn told the Times. “I mean I have really enjoyed this, this role and this gig and I have also felt quite a lot of wear and tear from it.”
Lynn told the news site he’s tried to shift the focus from “personal characteristics of the people who are homeless … to structural factors, like housing affordability, like lack of access to mental health, like lack of access to substance abuse treatment.”
His $242,000-a-year-job involved coordinating the numerous layers of government homeless services across Los Angeles city and county, as well as 88 local governments, according to the Times.
Local officials insist Lynn did an excellent job despite the obviously growing problems, which are driving complaints of defecation in the streets and promises from the Trump administration to intervene.
“Peter’s leadership of LAHSA came at a time with Angelenos took historic action and made generational investments in confronting the homelessness crisis,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a prepared statement. “He served for five years, with dedication, in one of the toughest jobs – and I thank him for all he did to bring more resources to our most vulnerable neighbors.”
County Supervisor Janice Hahn also praised Lynn for transforming the LAHSA into a massive bureaucracy.
“Peter led LAHSA through a historic expansion, from a relatively small agency managing shelters, to a multimillion-dollar organization implementing both the county and cities’ homelessness strategies,” she wrote in a statement.
LA’s homeless problems, of course, aren’t unique, with many cities in California witnessing sharp increases in homelessness in recent years. In San Francisco, infamous for the human waste that lines the city’s streets, city officials report a 30 percent jump in just the last year, The New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, San Francisco taxpayers are shelling out $300 million per year to help address the epidemic of about 10,000 homeless people in the city, according to City Journal. In other words, it costs taxpayers in San Francisco about $30,000 per homeless person, per year, to watch the problem grow worse. And the city is preparing to double that budget.
In LA, it’s the same deal.
Taxpayers approved $1.2 billion in new taxes to combat homelessness in 2016, as well as additional sales taxes in 2017, when the area’s homeless population was 55,000.
Now it’s about 60,000.
In August, the LA controller found LAHSA missed its goals by wide margins.
The next month, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson rejected requests for additional funding from the Trump administration.
Regardless, local politicians are convinced increasing government spending is the solution, with Congresswoman Maxine Waters leading the charge to spend another $13 billion through federal legislation.
Fortunately, at least one LA councilman is using Lynn’s departure as an opportunity to rethink the broken, ineffective system in favor of a new approach that gives LAHSA more authority to cut through bureaucratic red tape to actually help folks find permanent homes.
“I believe it is time for LAHSA to take a very different direction,” LA Councilman Paul Krekorian told the Times. “If that can be achieved through dynamic new leadership, so be it. If instead it must be done through extensive restructuring of the agency, then this is the time to do it.”