Local governments in Los Angeles may receive additional funds to help fight homelessness if a Senate bill passes.
The Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act would give $750 million in grants to local governments each year for the next five years in an effort to combat homelessness. It would also require a 25% match from nonfederal funds to cover other services for the homeless population.
The bill was introduced by Democrat Congressman Ted Lieu, representative of California’s 33rd district, which includes Westwood, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).
Almost a quarter of the 550,000 homeless people in the U.S. live in California. Lieu said in a previous statement a homelessness relief bill was needed to break the cycle of homelessness through housing and social services.
Feinstein also said in the statement she thinks homelessness should be addressed at the root of its various causes, including mental illness, drug addiction and poverty.
Andrew Thomas, the executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said he thinks any national bill that involves local governments in efforts to tackle homelessness is beneficial.
“Nobody knows the homeless situation better on the ground, in the city, better than the local representatives,” Thomas said. “Whether it is the city council or the local representatives, we are intimately involved with homelessness here.”
Thomas added he thinks there is a desire to address homelessness in the Los Angeles community, as the city and county offer resources to match money given through federal grants, thus increasing aid to the homeless population.
Several students said they think resources should go to areas in the fight against homelessness that do not currently receive sufficient support.
Isita Tripathi, a second-year neuroscience student and a programming director for the Hunger Project at UCLA, said after working with nonprofits through the Hunger Project, she understands why federal funding is important.
“Nonprofits are constantly struggling and are often understaffed, offering different niche services which makes it difficult as a homeless individual to know where to go for support,” Tripathi said. “Grassroots groups recognize this problem and are in the process of pushing local governments to pay attention to this crisis and provide a sense of stability so that the services the populations utilize can be further built upon.”
Shreya Banerjee, a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, said she hopes the money will go toward areas that are not already covered by existing resources such as Medicare.
“There is a need for the funding to cover root causes of homelessness, such as mental health, addiction and basic lack of care,” Banerjee said. “Funds towards mental health and addiction counseling and podiatry would go a long way in helping the overall problem of homelessness.”
Thomas added he thinks more needs to be done to address homelessness in Los Angeles.
“California has a higher homeless population than any state in the union, and Los Angeles has a greater homeless population than any other county in California,” Thomas said. “There is a lot of work to be done here.”