In the United States, over a half million people are unsheltered. These individuals live in temporary refuges or sleep in inhospitable places, such as abandoned buildings, sidewalks, tents, parks, or cars.
66.7% of the total unhoused population in the United States are single individuals, with the remaining 33.3% being families. Currently, in 2022, the state of California has the largest unsheltered population in the country, consisting of:
- 10,980 veterans
- 11,993 young adults
- 7,044 unsheltered households (families)
The top four causes of homelessness are:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Low wages
The lack of affordable housing is the top reason people experience homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. The increasing population and the strong economy have created both positive and negative results. House prices keep soaring. Lower-wage jobs that support the growing economy often do not provide enough income for people to afford housing costs in California, and traveling from far away is not a viable option for most.
Although for years, California has been providing state funds to slow down the number of unsheltered individuals, that number has increased by 40% in the past five years.
In response to this alarming growth rate, agencies have stepped up with possible solutions to the affordable housing problem. Their goal with affordable housing aims to provide stable, inexpensive homes to those with low or below median range income. To make this solution successful, placing on-site property management and wrap-around support services in these affordable housing units is needed to help the residents stay healthy, safe, and independent.
One agency working hard on this issue is the Housing Authority City of Los Angeles (HACLA). Since it was founded in 1938, HACLA has become one of the nation’s leading agencies that assist low-income, unhoused, veterans, and/or disabled individuals. The Homekey project, a statewide governmental program, allows local public entities to develop a broad range of housing types such as hotels, motels, and single-family homes and to convert commercial properties and other existing buildings to permanent or interim housing for the target population.
In the first round of the Homekey program, HACLA acquired fifteen properties on its own behalf and on behalf of the City of Los Angeles, comprised of twelve hotels or motels, two multi-family properties, and one co-op living property with a total of 750 units. Overall, the first round of the Homekey program created 5,911 units across the state. For the second round (Homekey 2.0), HACLA is dedicated to continue identifying and securing agreements to purchase vacant properties within the City of Los Angeles to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
JOA Group is currently serving HACLA as the owner-authorized representative for their Homekey 2.0 project. JOA Group performs risk assessments of each purchase agreement and ensures the purchase agreement requirements are met, including schedule, budget, construction, and turn-over of the project to HACLA. So far in this second round, HACLA has successfully purchased over ten properties and is in the process of converting these properties into affordable housing units.
Another ongoing project JOA Group manages for HACLA is Rose Hill Courts. Built in 1942, Rose Hill Courts is one of the oldest public housing complexes in the City of Los Angeles. This $33M P3 Public-Private Partnership affordable housing project for qualified low-income recipients consists of multiple multi-story housing units and a community center. Upon completion, this project will nearly double the number of affordable housing units at Rose Hill Courts to 185 and replace its existing 100 units set on five acres. This project will also feature surface parking, a secured interior bike room, bike racks, entirely new landscaping, lighting, fencing, signage, security features, as well as storm drain and utility improvements. The new sustainably designed buildings will utilize solar power and the landscaping will include water-efficient irrigation and stormwater reuse to achieve LEED certification.
Having worked in downtown Los Angeles for most of his 30-year career in the construction and AEC industry, JOA Group’s Scott Simpson has seen homelessness up close and personal. “I am fortunate to be right at the center of providing a safe and positive place for people to rebuild their lives. It will take a team effort to accomplish this. We can do this together!” Scott says, “We are in an interesting time. The need is evident by the fact that there are now people creating skid rows in every city like we have never seen before. The government has devoted money to agencies everywhere to tackle this problem. We are working together to build new housing and buy new properties to provide immediate housing needs. We need solid communications to implement these programs as we embrace the challenges together. We need both passion and expertise. Either of these without the other results in failure. By addressing these with the right vision and team members, we will be successful!”
Affordable housing provides stable homes that yield opportunities and more promising outcomes in employment, health, and education for both children and adults. However, the struggle to decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness continues. HACLA and many other agencies have come forward to assist with the issue including: National Alliances to End Homelessness, National Homelessness Law Center, Depaul USA, Streetwise, and Abode Services. A few other agencies stationed in other states are Coalition for the Homeless, based in New York, and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
If you would like to learn more about these projects or agencies, visit:
Kamprad, D. (n.d.). 7 best charities for helping Homeless People (Complete 2022 list). Impactful Ninja. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://impactful.ninja/best-charities-for-helping-homeless-people/#1
Homeless Population by State 2022. Homeless population by state 2022. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/homeless-population-by-state
O’Donnell, K. (2021, November 4). California’s ‘Magic recipe’ for reducing homelessness. POLITICO. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/04/main-recoverylab-cities-la-sros-518602
Background. Homekey. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://homekey.hcd.ca.gov/content/background