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Waiver allows those experiencing homelessness to get housing faster

Pictured is Los Angeles City Hall. A waiver was created by the LA Department of Housing and Urban Development to expedite the process of getting those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Christopher Buchanan

Sept. 21, 2023 10:54 p.m.

The Los Angeles Department of Housing and Urban Development created a waiver last month to expedite the process of providing those experiencing homelessness with permanent housing.

The waiver allows those experiencing homelessness 60 days to gather documents of personal identification such as state ID or proof of income to obtain housing, according to a press release from the office of Mayor Karen Bass. The press release said Angelenos experiencing homelessness and occupying temporary housing – such as city-sanctioned tiny home projects, shelters and motels – are no longer required to provide self-certification of income, birth, social security or disability to qualify for permanent housing.

Individuals will receive vouchers to verify their eligibility for the program, and after obtaining housing, will be given 60 days to provide personal identification through public housing authorities, according to the HUD website. Bass intends to alleviate the need for interim housing and avoid bureaucratic processes that lengthen the process of housing individuals, according to the press release.

Some believe this development is a substantial and overdue change for those experiencing homelessness in the city.

Gary Blasi, a professor of law who specializes in homelessness, said he thinks the waiver is beneficial for the housing system because many individuals are forced to reside in overfilled interim housing for an extended period of time.

“The real problem up until this point has been their emergency housing and then their so-called interim housing,” Blasi said. “People have gotten stuck in the interim housing (which is) fully occupied. So there’s no place for them to go.”

According to a study from the LA Homeless Services Authority on homelessness in the LA area, the number of those in interim housing has remained at around 20,000 since 2022.

Roxanne Jordan, senior vice president of programs at the LA Mission – a Christian-based organization dedicated to alleviating the effects of homelessness through housing, educational and employment assistance – said she is looking forward to seeing the outcome of removing slow bureaucratic action from the process of housing individuals.

Jordan said she is interested in whether property managers will commit to housing those experiencing homelessness.

“You remove the red tape from a legal or a systemic perspective or bureaucracy perspective, but the people who are empowered to implement, we want to make sure they’re also on board,” Jordan said.

Carlos VanNatter, the director of Section 8 at the Housing Authority of the City of LA, said in an emailed statement that he does not foresee any issue with the 60-day timeframe that HUD has set for those who received a waiver. He added that he believes case managers will be able to provide their information more effectively once individuals are housed.

VanNatter also said HUD specified that the waiver applies to Section 8 housing resources, which allow low-income individuals to make lesser rent payments to private landlords.

However, Blasi said that other bureaucratic systems involved, such as obtaining an identification card, could prove difficult within the time frame. He added that the advantages of the program may depend on how stringent this process is.

“If you were born outside of California, in particular, (getting an ID) can be a really long drawn-out process,” he said. “That requires you ultimately to find a birth certificate unless they accept things in lieu of a birth certificate as the food stamps program does, and accept other forms of identification.”

Jordan also said she believes it is essential to revisit the program to modify any issues once it has been fully implemented and operating at full capacity.

She added that many factors, such as mental health struggles, could possibly affect one’s ability to procure documentation for housing. Jordan said she also believes it is imperative to have a public housing authority dedicated to monitoring and assisting in individual cases.

“I think there’s a case management component in terms of continuing to assist people with the process that’s going to be critical here, so you have a number of things converging together that still need to be addressed,” Jordan said.

Blasi said that while this program will likely not solve the housing issue in LA, it has removed an obstacle that ultimately proliferated homelessness.

“I think it is a positive step, but it’s not going to solve all the problems,” Blasi said. “It is going to remove one obstacle that has been in the way just by virtue of the bureaucracy which needed to be removed.”

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Christopher Buchanan
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