- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2018

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles County while many shelter beds go empty because of problems ranging from bedbugs and rats to harassment and lax medical care, according to a report.

An investigation by Southern California Public Radio station KPCC found public documents from an array of government agencies that reveal safety and sanitation problems in shelters, and a patchwork system of oversight that leaves no single entity to ensure cleanliness and safety.

One homeless man, Craig Aslin, said he was bitten by bedbugs at one shelter so he left and ended up in a tent in Hollywood. He said the tent is cleaner, he doesn’t have to deal with people he doesn’t like and he can come and go at will.

“I live better now than I did then, I mean for real,” Aslin told the news station for a report Wednesday.

Reviews conducted at 60 shelters funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority last year found more than half were not filling all of their beds. Overall, LAHSA-funded shelters had a 78 percent utilization rate, well below the 90 percent required in their contracts.

Monitors also found that 25 of those facilities failed to meet the minimum standards required by their contracts to get people off the streets for good.

Of the 16,600 shelter beds in the county, most are run by private nonprofit and faith organizations. Many have contracts with local, state and federal government agencies that pay for beds for mental health clients, veterans, and other populations they serve.

Some shelters raise philanthropic dollars on their own to improve living conditions. Those that don’t receive public money operate with little to no public accountability at all.

The lack of accountability for meeting quality and service benchmarks raises questions about what taxpayers are paying for with the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through LAHSA and other public agencies, KPCC said.

LAHSA officials said the agency has plans to improve quality, in part by increasing the rate it pays shelters. That money is intended to fund more robust services and amenities on site - what the industry calls “bridge housing.” LAHSA figures show that for the past year, about 39 percent of those in bridge housing have moved on to permanent homes.

For those in traditional shelters, the number was 17 percent.

A 2017 public health inspection of The House of Hope, the shelter Aslin left, did not find bed bugs. It did find 17 other health code violations, including evidence of rats, roaches, suspected mold and issues with waste storage and disposal.


Information from: KPCC-FM, http://www.scpr.org/

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