Category Archive: Homelessness

  1. National Point-In-Time Count Provides Insight on Homelessness

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    Volunteers joined community organizations and homelessness experts nationwide in January to conduct the annual Point-in-Time Count (PITC) of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness.  The PITC, which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides regional Continuums of Care with a snapshot of who is homeless so that communities can better understand and serve them. The PITC also raises public awareness of the challenges affecting people who are homeless.

    In the last few years, HUD has worked with the Continuums of Care to improve the accuracy of the PITC, which takes place nationwide during the last 10 days of January. HUD uses the PITC data to inform decisions about how it funds nonprofit providers, and state and local governments, to prevent and end homelessness.

    In San Diego, several members of the LDC team joined volunteers from across the County to support the Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ efforts to get an accurate count of the homeless population living in downtown San Diego. This year, the LDC team concentrated its efforts in downtown San Diego, where a high concentration of people live unsheltered. Not only did the experience serve as a reminder that no one sets out to become homeless, it also re-affirmed our resolve as a firm to help and promote the work of communities seeking to expand access to housing and services for residents at all socioeconomic levels.

    Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, covers projects at the intersection of housing, health, and human services, and manages LDC’s marketing and business development. She specializes in partnering with multidisciplinary teams to advance policies and programs to improve the quality of life in our communities, and has extensive experience translating complex social issues into tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth.

  2. How Will the 2017 Housing Package Affect 2018?

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    Colorado Court Apartments, affordable housing in Santa Monica, CAOf the 130 housing-related bills introduced last year, 15 were approved and signed into law by Gov. Brown.  As we look forward to 2018, we’ve examined how some of these bills might be catalysts for change in 2018.  In particular, we examined SB35, Senator Wiener’s streamlining bill; SB40, Senator Roth’s Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone (WHOZ) bill; and, AB1397, Assemblymember Low’s bill addressing housing element inventory.

    SB35 (Wiener) is a measure that streamlines certain multifamily housing project approvals, at the request of the developer, in jurisdictions that have not met their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements or have not submitted housing elements for two consecutive years.

    Qualifying developments must meet the following requirements: (1) be in an urbanized area (population of 50,000 or more) or an urban cluster (population 2,500 – 50,000); (2) have at least 75 percent of its perimeter adjoining parcels that are already developed as urban uses; and, (3) be zoned residential or mixed-use, with at least 2/3 of the square footage dedicated for residential use. Several exclusions, including excluded land use designations, apply.

    SB 540 (Roth) establishes “Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones” (WHOZs).  Jurisdictions that opt in will encourage the development of affordable housing near jobs and transit by creating zones where planning, environmental review, and public input is completed through Specific Plans.  Developments within Specific Plan areas will benefit in that they will require neither CEQA review nor discretionary review. In 2018, we’ll see jurisdictions begin to develop specific plans in order to take advantage of this program and incentivize the development of affordable housing.

    AB 1397 (Low) makes changes to how governments comprise their housing element site inventories.  For instance, parcels must have sufficient water, sewer, and utilities in order to be counted.  Sites that are now vacant will now need to overcome certain restrictions in order to be included.  And, sites must be “available” for residential development, or show that they have “realistic and demonstrated” potential to be developed.

    Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at

  3. 10 Trends to Watch in Homeless Services Systems

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    Image of homeless camp near the I-5 freeway in San Diego

    Homeless Camp in San Diego

    California’s efforts to address homelessness drew national attention in 2017 as communities throughout California saw increases in their homeless populations and several cities battled outbreaks of Hepatitis A. However, the high visibility of homelessness helped generate the public and political will to address the growing crisis. To help communities and organizations prepare for 2018 and beyond, we talked to LDC’s homelessness experts Jonathan Hunter and Kris Kuntz about trends to watch in homeless service systems in 2018. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

    1. Integrating data to drive decision making.

    Hunter: In the last several years, people all over the country have been replicating studies showing the high cost of homelessness and the cost shifts and cost savings associated with solving the problem, but people are now realizing the actual data to drive those decisions has been weak because it sits in so many different systems and there are all sorts of barriers to actually integrating that data. So now HUD and local systems are making investments in figuring out how to do data integration across housing, healthcare, policing, corrections, criminal justice, and 911 ambulance transports. But what does data integration mean to the case manager at a federally qualified health clinic or at a homeless shelter or to an outreach worker tied to a totally different system? Does the data actually get to them, and how does it change the way they actually work on the ground?

    Kuntz: We’ve historically worked in silos so most people don’t know how to work together well. Very small pilot programs—like Project 25—do it well because the integration was all done through personal relationships with the EMTs, the emergency room doctors, and the Medicaid plan staff. As we move beyond pilots, you’re not going to be able to rely on five people who know each other to break down those silos. For example, 2-1-1 in San Diego has redesigned their technology platform that was an earlier system that integrated data to better coordinate care, but it hasn’t been used to its fullest potential because I don’t think people on the front line necessarily know how to use it well.  Whole Person Care discussions in California are forcing those conversations to happen. For example, San Francisco has had an integrated data system for a long time, and I was recently on a panel in Berkeley with San Francisco’s Whole Person Care director who said, “Integrating data does not change practice.”

    1. Breaking down silos and engaging stakeholders in systems-level thinking.

    Hunter: You have to understand how all these silo dynamics happen in the first place. When you’re in a hospital emergency room and somebody comes in the door bleeding, you don’t think their housing status matters so you don’t ask. Eventually that person gets sewn up and released. They show back up a few days later, and you still don’t understand that homelessness may be a key piece of why they got injured in the first place, why they didn’t have adequate follow-up care, and why they’re now costing you a lot more money because you’re going to get dinged on your Medicare or Medicaid quality standards for re-admitting them.

    The same thing happens when the sheriff arrests somebody and puts them in jail for walking naked in the middle of the street. The arresting officer doesn’t think about incurring significant mental health costs. It’s like the old metaphor that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Most of the time you get locked into thinking about the problem from the perspective of your particular system.

    That’s shifting now because enough pilot projects have demonstrated that you’re going to save a lot of money, because you’re going to identify people who need supportive housing and are going to dramatically reduce your costs. In another system, you’re not going to save money but you’re going to have way better outcomes. And then you can redirect police officers to focus on doing the work that citizens really want them to do, which they can’t now do because they spend so much time dealing with homeless people with behavioral issues.

    1. Expanding partnerships between housing and healthcare providers.

    Hunter: One of the things we’ve been working on is understanding the healthcare sector’s perspective on how to more effectively identify their high-cost, highly vulnerable patients who are probably in many cases homeless. And once they identify those folks, how do they leverage their funding for healthcare and services with housing commitments? In some communities, the healthcare sector has tried to connect with the Continuum of Care (CoC) and even offered to put up funding for services, but gets no response when asked who can do the housing.  Figuring out how to better connect healthcare services, care coordination, and case management and the entities dealing with housing and rent subsidies will be critical, regardless of what happens to Obamacare. The expansion of Medicaid, or in California Medi-Cal, will not be impacted by ending the individual mandate, so you’re increasingly going to have for-profit health insurance companies on the hook for very vulnerable people.

    1. Using the coordinated entry system to prioritize people for housing based on need.

    Kuntz: By January 23, 2018, CoCs in every community across the country must have baseline policies that tell HUD how they’re going to implement their coordinated entry systems. As we connect the healthcare, criminal justice, and other systems, we have to think about how they can best help get people into housing as the foundation for addressing these other issues. And HUD’s core requirements include some really interesting opportunities for communities to prioritize people for supportive housing including using local health or criminal justice data. Most communities are saying that they’re going to use the vulnerability tool because it’s off the shelf and it’s the easiest thing to do, but some communities will want to think about how they use healthcare, criminal justice, and other data to prioritize people based on need.

    1. Helping housing developers effectively work with coordinated entry systems to meet IRS lease-up requirements.

    Hunter: As communities implement coordinated entry, they’re also going to need to think about its impact on housing providers. When San Diego implemented coordinated entry, the very first project they applied it to was a lease-up of a tax credit project. But the lease-up process was so cumbersome and took so long, the developer couldn’t meet the IRS’ required timeline for lease-up and lost a significant amount of money trying to figure this out on the fly. The ability to understand the pressures and dynamics of the housing provider and how coordinated entry is set up to work in that particular community will be essential to moving people into housing quickly.

    Kuntz: While each coordinated entry system has to have four critical components—access, assessment, prioritization, and referral—the funding to implement activities related to these critical components may not come from HUD. Communities are going to have to figure out how they do it, and how they pay for it. In San Diego, HUD only funds four housing navigators for the entire county to assist 9,000 people who are homeless. So when we think about these tax-credit projects, we need to think about who will fund the staff time to go find people who are on the streets and at the top of the priority list to put them in available units.

    For example, we’ve been working with the City of Riverside to set a policy to develop 400 units of supportive housing in multiple sites over the next couple years. It’s both a development plan about how they build and finance housing, but it’s also about how those housing services systems operate, how they connect to the coordinated entry system, and how they measure performance. As communities in California receive funding to build housing for people who are homeless and chronically homeless over the next couple years, they’re going to need a development plan that ensures the housing units are embedded and connected to service systems that will help people access housing and stabilize once in it.

    1. Leveraging new state funding with local funding sources.

    Hunter: In California, unlike most other states, we’ve got significant new money coming into the system to develop housing, and for the development approaches to dealing with chronically homeless and vulnerable populations, in particular people with mental illness. For example, the Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB-2) and No Place Like Home funds will need to be paired with operating subsidies and services funding. In addition, Los Angeles, Alameda, and Santa Clara County have developed local bonds to make significant investments in increasing the supply of housing.

    Going back to the whole data sharing and coordinated entry, part of the whole point of doing that work is recognizing that supportive housing especially, is an expensive intervention. So you want to make sure that you use that intervention for the people who most need that intervention or who are having the biggest negative impact across multiple public systems. The targeting of those resources is really critical to ensure that funding is used effectively and ultimately frees up other kinds of public funding for these investments.

    1. Figuring out how homeless systems penetrate expensive rental markets.

    Kuntz: We need to build more affordable and supportive housing, but that will take time. So we can either put people in shelters, or we can figure out creative strategies to impact our existing rental markets. For example, I just read an article that said 38% of San Diegans are now living in roommate situations, so maybe 38% of our homeless placements are in roommate situations?

    We also need to look at programs like the Los Angeles County Housing for Health program, which provides flexible funding to cover the cost of rental payments and deposits that exceed standard subsidies, or to do other strategies such as master leasing.

    1. Documenting and capturing cost savings to make homelessness services systems sustainable.

    Hunter: We’ve made the argument that Housing First and supportive housing strategies significantly reduce public costs in certain sectors. A key assumption of the Whole Person Care pilot programs in California is that, if they’re properly targeting people with the most complex health needs, it’s going to save money over time. But if you implement supportive housing and coordinated entry, how do you document, capture, and reinvest those savings to sustain the system beyond the pilot period?

    One of the first supportive housing projects I worked on in the 1990s had 24 units, and we had assumed that they would turn over on a fairly regular basis. By the end of two years, a third of those units were occupied by people who were going to consistently require supports costing $15,000-18,000 a year in order to successfully live independently in the community. That’s a bargain when they had been consuming $150,000-$400,000 a year cycling in and out of hospitalization and jail, but you need to capture that savings to make the intervention sustainable while also going to scale.

    Likewise, Los Angeles received sizeable investments from the philanthropic community to design and test run their homeless services system, but now they are trying to figure out how to replace that philanthropic funding with public funding. Philanthropic funding was intended to create a model or test case, not to sustain the system over a long period of time. We need to invest in creating a sustainable system in order to reach a tipping point and reduce the number of people on the streets rather than seeing those numbers increase.

    1. Ensure temporary programs are well operated and generate successful placements into housing.

    Kuntz: Lately, we have seen communities across California either start or plan for temporary programs, such as shelters and safe zones intended to help with large unsheltered populations and public health issues. It is going to be critical that these programs are well operated and use a Housing First philosophy with a low-barrier approach from entry to exit.  If programs are not low-barrier and welcoming, then they will not serve the folks these programs are intended to reach.

    I was recently in Los Angeles at a Measure H City Homeless Plans grantee orientation for work we are doing to assist several cities with their homeless plans, and I heard Phil Ansell, Director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative, say something along these lines: “Shelter can be a seductive thing to do because it can decrease the visibility of street homelessness, but just remember, even in shelter people are still homeless.” It will be interesting to watch this year how effective these temporary programs are at placing people into permanent housing, because it’s one thing to see fewer people on the streets and another to know that people are in their own homes.

    1. We know what works. Now it’s time to work harder than ever before.

    Kuntz: Recently I read a blog post by Zach Brown who is the head of the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness.  Super passionate and entertaining.  One of things he mentioned was that they don’t need to be part of any more campaigns or get big pats on the back.  They know how to end homelessness, and they just need to buckle down and do the hard work that it takes to get people into housing and keep them there.  Very simple but so true.  Communities across the country know what works.  We also know that there are never enough resources to do the work, so we need to work harder than before and be more efficient and creative with the resources we do have.  Communities that embrace this philosophy and come together to do the hard work will be the ones that succeed.

    Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, has expertise in systems modeling and change, particularly as applied to the homelessness assistance system. He has performed agency-wide data analysis and evaluation activities for San Diego’s largest homeless services agency, that included a drop day center, emergency shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and a federally qualified health center. To learn more about LDC’s work with homeless assistance systems, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at



    Jonathan Hunter, Senior Principal, is a creative leader in collaborative design of innovative solutions to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, including developing and funding supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless and have disabilities related to mental illness, substance use, HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions. In Los Angeles, his work resulted in the creation of more than 3,000 new units of supportive housing.




    Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, manages marketing and business development and also specializes in partnering with multidisciplinary teams to advance policies and programs to improve the quality of life for children and families, and has extensive experience translating complex social issues into compelling stories, reports, and tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth.



  4. City of Los Angeles Passes Motel Conversion, Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinances

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    In its last session of 2017, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission passed two ordinances to facilitate the development of transitional and permanent supportive housing. The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance would streamline the production of permanent supportive housing by establishing standard criteria and removing regulatory barriers. To qualify as a permanent supportive housing project, all units would be required to be affordable with half or more of those units designated for persons who are homeless. All projects would be linked to onsite or offsite supportive services, require a 55-year affordability covenant, and ensure one-to-one replacement of any existing affordable units.

    If passed by the Los Angeles City Council, the PSH Ordinance would allow new developments to be built at higher density, because units are typically designed for individuals, and would exempt them from mandatory parking minimums. Project would still be required to meet the height and floor area limitations that apply under the existing density bonus program to ensure that the scale of buildings would be similar to a typical affordable housing project.

    The second, the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, would streamline the approval process for converting existing motels and hotels to supportive and transitional housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This would allow for transitional housing to be developed on a faster timeline than would be required to construct new units.

    Both ordinances will be forwarded to relevant City Council Committees for consideration and to the City Attorney for review before they can come to the City Council for a vote.


    Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, provides research, analysis, writing, and project management leadership in support of various consulting projects, especially ELP’s role as Executive Director for the Westside Cities Council 

    of  Governments. For more information, contact Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, at

  5. City and County of Los Angeles Continue Major Housing Initiatives

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    Generosity was the theme in Los Angeles County this past year as voters overwhelmingly passed Measure H, opting to increase taxes by a quarter-cent for the next 10 years to generate around $355 million annually to prevent and combat homelessness. In its first five years, Measure H is expected to help an estimated 45,000 homeless individuals and families move into permanent housing while preventing 30,000 more individuals and families from becoming homeless.

    In June 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors largely adopted recommendations from a 50-member planning committee on how to spend the first three years of Measure H funding, which include $259 million for FY 2017-18, $374 million in FY 2018-2019, and $432 million in FY 2019-2020. The majority of the funds will be used to provide rental subsidies, supportive services for individuals placed in permanent housing, outreach, and an expanded shelter system. Supportive services include mental health and substance abuse treatment, healthcare, job training and education, and transportation, among others.

    As Supervisor Janice Hahn expressed, the passage of the measure demonstrates “generosity and compassion” on behalf of the many voters who opted to tax themselves to solve the homelessness crisis. Moreover, Measure H will help pay for supportive services that will be paired with an estimated 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for chronically homeless individuals that will be built in the City of Los Angeles under Proposition HHH.

    In addition, just last week, the Los Angeles City Council passed a “linkage fee” that will require developers to pay $1 to $15 per square foot depending on the type of project and its location. The term “linkage fee” refers to cities’ efforts to offset the burden on the housing market for lower-income people caused by market-rate development.  Mayor Garcetti celebrated the achievement and suggested that the fee, which is expected to generate $100 million annually, would help LA become “a city for all” by providing the financing to construct approximately 1,700 units of affordable housing each year. The City Council is expected to approve a plan next year for how to spend the money raised by the linkage fee.

    Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, provides research, analysis, writing, and project management leadership in support of various consulting projects, especially ELP’s role as Executive Director for the Westside Cities Council of Governments. For more information, contact her at


  6. If You Don’t Believe in Housing First, Here’s What You Do Believe In

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    HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

    HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

    This summer, I attended the National Alliance to End Homelessness annual conference along with 2,000 others who are passionate about ending homelessness. While it’s always a great opportunity to connect with people and exchange ideas, the most important takeaway came from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, who delivered a keynote speech and took a public stance advocating for the Housing First approach to ending homelessness. Simply put, Housing First focuses on rapid access to permanent housing with few prerequisites, as well as support to help individuals and families maintain their housing. During Secretary Carson’s speech, I became extremely encouraged when he urged attendees to stay the course with Housing First.

    Secretary Carson’s speech was especially timely, because lately Housing First has drawn criticism and some are pushing to return to traditional models. In my opinion, these criticisms are the result of misunderstandings about the approach among people who associate it with unrelated issues.

    As someone who understands and promotes Housing First, I can spout off its principles, but Secretary Carson’s speech helped me consider what people who criticize the model believe. So here is my understanding of the beliefs held by people who don’t support Housing First:

    1. Housing is not a basic human right. People should only have a home if they deserve it, earn it, and comply with your standards, which are probably derived from a privileged perspective.

    2. Compassion should only be given to people who want to make changes in their lives. If people are not willing to accept your definition of help or make changes that you feel are fit, then it’s their problem.

    3. Homelessness is an individual problem that results from poor choices, individual behaviors, lack of skills, and laziness. Things like housing markets, economics, political agendas, income inequality, a history of racial oppression, etc., are not the root of the homeless problem.

    4. Someone’s own safe and secure home is not the best place for them to achieve stability and long-term success.

    5. You believe in judging someone for their mishaps, and telling them that what they are doing is wrong.

    6. People cannot be successful in housing without addressing their issues first. You ignore the fact that many housed people, including middle and upper class households, use addictive substances and live with mental illness.

    7. It’s the homeless systems’ responsibility for addressing poverty and cracks in mainstream systems and institutions, such as education, criminal justice, child welfare, behavioral health, labor market, foster care, I could go on.

    8. If someone refuses to enter a shelter or another temporary program, they are choosing to be homeless.

    9. You disagree with medical professionals, and view addiction as a choice for which the consequences are your own. The only cure is 100% sobriety—nothing in between.

    10. People experiencing homelessness are broken and need to be fixed before they can have a home. Fixing means jumping through all sorts of hoops, sleeping in congregate shelters, having religious or other values pushed at you, etc.

    I’m sure that some people will not agree with my list. I’m okay with that. But maybe, by looking at the flip-side beliefs of Housing First, some people will see how problematic that perspective really is.

    For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at

  7. State Lawmakers Take Action on Homelessness

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    Tents set up by people who are homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles

    Tents set up by people who are homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles

    Affordable housing advocates weren’t the only winners last week as California lawmakers worked to push through a flurry of bills before the end of the legislative session on September 15th. In addition to creating a permanent source of revenue to fund affordable housing, SB 2 (Atkins) provides funding for programs for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In 2018, half the funds will be made available to the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide funding for programs for people experiencing  or at risk of homelessness. The legislation specifies that use of the funds includes, but is not limited to, providing rapid rehousing, rental assistance, and navigation centers, as well as the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of permanent and transitional rental housing.

    Several other bills aimed specifically at addressing homelessness also passed during the 2017 legislative session:

    AB 727 (Nazarian) authorizes counties to expand access to housing assistance for people in programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act. The use of MHSA funds for rental subsidies was previously restricted to individuals participating in Full Service Partnerships who require intensive services to stabilize and to individuals who were referred to services from the field. This bill will allow counties to continue to support individuals as they transition to lower levels of service along the continuum of care.

    AB 74 (Chiu) establishes the Housing for a Healthy California Program, which aims to create supportive housing for homeless SSI recipients by leveraging Medi-Cal benefits. The program would be funded through the federal Housing Trust Fund or other sources available to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and would be released through competitive grants to counties and operating reserve grants and capital loans to developers. Numerous studies have demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of coupling stable housing with physical and mental health services for high utilizers of public services.

    AB 932 (Ting) establishes a pilot program allowing specific cities and counties to develop a plan and local ordinances to expedite the construction of emergency shelters on land owned or leased by the city upon declaration of a shelter crisis. HCD would be required to approve local ordinances adopted during the pilot program to ensure compliance with health and safety standards. Eligible localities that declare a shelter crisis are required to submit an annual progress report to the Legislature indicating the total number of residents in shelters, the number who have moved from a shelter into permanent supportive housing, and the number who have exited the system, as well as other data on steps the locality is taking to reduce homelessness.

    AB 210 (Santiago) allows counties to develop multidisciplinary teams to expedite the process of linking homeless adults and families to housing and supportive services by allowing provider agencies to share information and coordinate care. Allowing for a coordinated interagency response will not only improve government efficiency, individuals and families will benefit from greater continuity of care.

    LDC will continue to follow the news from the 2017 legislative session and provide you with updates on how these and future measures, if enacted, are implemented in cities and counties statewide.

    If you are interested in learning more about how to maximize the opportunities created by the legislation, please contact Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, at for a briefing or trainings for your team.

  8. Portland Summer Vacation….Visiting a Couples Shelter

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    Beds at the Transition Projects couples shelter in Portland, OR

    Beds at the Transition Projects couples shelter in Portland, OR

    I have family in Portland, Oregon, so I try to get up there at least once a year to see them. If you have not been, Portland is a great city. Very outdoorsy, progressive, good food. Plus, I feel at home given Portland is home to a decent sized homeless population with plenty of encampments, similar to San Diego. As someone who always wants to learn more about ways to end homelessness and see what other communities are doing, I decided to drag my family on a tour of a Portland homeless shelter program specifically for couples. Portland recently decided to open a few couples’ shelters after asking homeless residents their main reasons for not accessing shelter, and hearing two common responses: People couldn’t take their pet and couldn’t stay with their partner.

    So with my wife and two kids in my sister’s car we drove to Southeast Portland to check out it out. Coincidentally, San Diego City Council member Chris Ward, who has strongly advocated for ending homelessness, was also visiting Portland with his family and broke away for to join us. The shelter, the Willamette Center, is a low-barrier shelter with the majority of its 120 beds designated for couples. The shelter is operated by Transition Projects, a large non-profit that offers an array of homeless services throughout Portland.

    While I have been in several shelters for single adults and families, this was my first time in one for couples so I had a lot of questions. How is a couple defined? Do they sleep in one bed or two? How do they handle the usual relationship squabbles? Are they treated as a household in their Coordinated Entry System? And what about, ummm, intimacy activities?

    First off, I was very impressed with the facility’s aesthetics and operation. Located in a cute residential neighborhood, I honestly would have driven right past if I hadn’t been looking for it. One would never know that 120 people sleep inside this nondescript building every night.

    Sign posted at the Transition Projects shelter for homeless couples (Portland, OR)

    Sign posted at the Transition Projects shelter for homeless couples (Portland, OR)

    Once inside, there was a positive vibe to the place. I noticed right away that they did not have any security guards, which may have contributed to this sense of ease. In addition, shelter staff are trained in non-violent conflict resolution, and are very upfront about their expectations from the beginning. They also ask guests to check any weapons or needles at the door, and allow guests to retrieve their items when they leave. Guests don’t have to be sober to stay, but drugs and alcohol are not allowed on site. Pets are welcome regardless of companion or service animal status.

    Now getting back to my questions….The shelter doesn’t define a couple, but rather allows people to define themselves. Married, not married, gay, straight. They have even had adult parents with adult kids identify as a couple and stay there. They don’t question, but do let the couple know that staying there might be difficult if they are no longer a couple, especially because there aren’t any beds designated specifically for single men at that site.

    Couples get one queen bed on bunks. And while the staff commonly deal with relationship disputes, they have found a good balance of giving people space while intervening when necessary. They also have rules stating “No sex or overtly sexual behavior.”

    My biggest takeaway is that the staff treats the people who are staying there as ordinary people. They established limited rules, and people were treated with respect and given the power to make their own decisions. Staff were definitely present but in a highly supportive and problem-solving role. Other communities considering how best to serve homeless couples should really be looking to Transition Projects as an example of what can happen when a city listens to and respects people who are experiencing homelessness.

    For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at

  9. Legislators’ Push for Affordable Housing Package Dominates News Cycle

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    Efforts to address California’s housing shortage took center stage in Sacramento last week as Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders struck a deal on three key measures—Senate Bills 2, 3, and 35. The measures have been the subject of intense debate as leaders statewide seek to stimulate development and improve housing affordability.

    Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) was amended August 28th to increase the bond to $4 billion and renamed. The amended bill would authorize $3 billion in bonds for the construction of new low-income housing, and add $1 billion to extend the Cal-Vet Farm and Home Loan Program, which provides homeownership subsidies to veterans. The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB2), authored by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), was also amended to provide for more local government control of the funds generated from real estate document fees. The third measure, Senate Bill 35 authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would streamline local planning reviews for new construction. Both SB2 and SB3 require a two-thirds approval by the Legislature.

    The news and opinion pieces highlighted below offer a robust picture of the debate taking place statewide:

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at

  10. Unlocking Land for High-Impact Development

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    Modern apartment buildingThe most recent forecast shows that California needs 1.8 million new homes by 2025 to keep pace with population growth, projected to reach 39 million to 50 million by 2050, yet annually produces fewer than half the homes necessary to meet those needs. As a result, cities and counties throughout the state now face an unprecedented affordable housing crisis that threatens economic growth.

    While new sources of housing financing are part of the solution, many jurisdictions are also taking steps to maximize the development potential of existing land. According to the widely circulated “A Blueprint for Addressing the Global Affordable Housing Challenge” and its California companion report “Closing California’s Housing Gap,” both published by the McKinsey Global Institute, efforts to “unlock land” are the most important measures jurisdictions can take to reduce the costs associated with housing production. This is especially true in California where the growing population and limited availability of buildable parcels makes it imperative to prioritize sites based on their capacity for high-impact development.

    In recent years, many jurisdictions have turned to transit-oriented development to unlock land with existing infrastructure near transit hubs and corridors. Since 1995, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has routinely sought opportunities to collaborate with developers to increase transit use by building pedestrian-friendly communities on Metro-owned properties. To date, the agency has completed more than 2,017 housing units, as well as nearly 1.5 million square feet of combined retail and office space, across 18 projects. In 2015, the agency updated its joint development policies to require that 35% of the total housing units be affordable to households earning no more than 60% of the area median income.

    San Diego has also taken steps to develop or repurpose government-owned land. In June 2017, San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts announced an affordable housing initiative that included identifying 11 county-owned properties for evaluation to determine whether they can be redeveloped. County officials are currently evaluating these sites to determine the feasibility of different redevelopment options.

    Other jurisdictions are working with private landowners to spur development on underutilized or idle land. Last year, Alameda County passed a general obligation bond to provide $580 million in funding for affordable housing initiatives. One initiative capitalizes on the interest faith-based and community organizations expressed in developing their available land and buildings for affordable housing. To launch the Housing Development Capacity Building Program, the County Board of Supervisors has allocated $750,000 to provide qualifying organizations with the capacity development and training necessary to convert their assets into affordable housing. The County also seeks to leverage its contribution with other resources to expand its services.

    In addition, more communities—including Santa Monica—are adopting inclusionary zoning policies. In July, the Santa Monica City Council voted to require most new developments to set aside up to 30 percent of units for low-income households.

    As local governments seek to resolve the affordable housing crisis, they will need more innovative strategies to spur development by unlocking land. By analyzing how available land is currently used, local governments can determine which locations offer the greatest potential for lower-cost, high-impact housing development.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.