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An update to the fight against homelessness in LA and Orange counties

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A homeless encampment located around the Santa Ana Civic Center in Orange County.
Jill Replogle/KPCC
A homeless encampment located around the Santa Ana Civic Center in Orange County.

After years of watching the problem get worse and debating solutions, L.A. and Orange counties are getting serious about trying to resolve issues of homelessness.

Los Angeles and Orange counties are getting serious about tackling homelessness after years of watching the problem get worse.

L.A. city voters passed a $1.2 million bond about six months ago to pay for homeless housing. Then, on March 7, L.A. County voters agreed to hike the sales tax to pay for homeless services.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway in Orange County to address homelessness, too.

KPCC's Rina Palta and Jill Replogle joined Take Two for an update on where things stand.

Measure HHH, L.A.'s $1.2 million bond to fund homeless housing

There's a list of potential projects that the city might fund with the bond money.

"That list is going to the City Council next month, so they'll vote on it in May," Palta said.

Once a project is approved, then the builder can break ground.

Measure H, L.A.'s sales tax hike to pay for homeless services

There's a 50-member panel that's been tasked with coming to consensus on how to spend the money generated from the tax increase, which goes into effect in July.

"Some of the big items that they've rallied around are shelter space," Palta said. "They've also rallied around building and funding more permanent housing for people."

The panel is also exploring whether to subsidize people's rent to help them get on their feet.

"There's a kind of more wacky idea, too, to fund prevention services to prevent people from getting evicted or losing their housing in the first place," Palta said.

She added that there is not much research on prevention strategies and their effectiveness, so it's uncertain whether the panel will sign off on unproven ideas.

What should L.A. watch out for?

That panel which handles the sales tax money meets today.

Its deadline is to give a plan of recommended actions to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors by June.

How does the homelessness problem compare in Orange County?

"There is definitely a homeless crisis in Orange County and it's become really visible in the last couple of years," Replogle said.

People from many different sides are concerned about it and are trying to prioritize the needs they may choose to address.

What's one area of concern in Orange County?

On one side of the Santa Ana riverbed is flood control land, and several hundred people have been camping on that land recently.

Several months ago, however, the county wanted to use that land to store boulders and sand for the purposes of flood control.

So there was a legal fight about whether those people could be moved and what would happen to their belongings.

"There were a couple lawsuits about what to do with people in that area," Replogle said.

It would take millions of dollars to address homelessness in OC, too

UC-Irvine researchers have estimated that homelessness costs $300 million each year to Orange County and independent service organizations.

"A huge portion of that is for health care," Replogle said.

Meanwhile, an independent study by the ACLU estimated it would take $55 million to create permanent housing for the homeless, but that figured didn't include the cost of services.

Orange County is not as far along as Los Angeles in developing a game plan.

"There is an idea floating around of setting up a sanctioned encampment that some advocates are coalescing around," but that's in the early stages right now, Replogle said.

L.A. could lead the nation in developing a blueprint for fighting homelessness

"Everyone in the state and the nation is watching L.A. County right now to see what's going to happen with the homeless population," Palta said. "If you can solve the problem here, then you can solve it anywhere."

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