Ending homelessness in Los Angeles County has been a huge issue for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for over 25 years, and it’s given more than $90 million in grants to this cause. Up until now, the main focus of Hilton’s homelessness funding has been on permanent supportive housing. With the start of the new year, Hilton’s strategy has moved from Phase I to Phase II and kicked off a new five-year commitment with a revamped strategy.
Homelessness is a major problem in Los Angeles, and it’s been getting worse. According to Hilton Foundation statistics, “The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in Los Angeles County on the night of the January 2015 point-in-time count increased by nearly 5,000 over the count in January 2013.” This is largely due to the lingering economic recession, the lack of affordable housing options in the county, and the loss of redevelopment funds and housing subsidy vouchers.
Phase I of the foundation’s homelessness initiative began in 2010, when statistics showed that Los Angeles County would need about 12,000 supportive housing units to house its chronically homeless population. Hilton realized back then that the private sector couldn’t tackle this level of need alone and would need to collaborate with the government, so it began bringing together public and private leaders to work out the details. Examples of past public/private partnership grantees from Phase I include Home for Good, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, and the Coordinated Entry System.
Based on the December 2015 foundation report its Chronic Homelessness Initiative, the following recommendations were established to move forward into Phase II:
- Formalize the infrastructure of the Home for Good Community plan
- Scale the countywide prioritization system
- Scale the permanent supportive housing inventory
- Develop service commitments
- Focus on the most vulnerable subpopulations
- Work on a state and national advocacy strategy
- Boost developer and provider capacity
Now with 2016 and Phase II in full swing, we’re looking ahead to what Hilton will be doing differently to end homelessness in the county in the next few years.
City and County Plans
In many ways, Hilton’s Phase II approach is similar to Phase I, in that it’s finding ways to bridge the gap between public and private funding efforts. The difference now is that Hilton’s leaders have a better sense of what works in Los Angeles County and what doesn’t.
Hilton isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel here or work against the grain of progress. It strategy takes a collaborative approach to working with city and county officials to push plans forward.
One key aspect involves emphasizing pilot programs for early intervention of homelessness. There’s a push to understand the reasons why people become homeless in Los Angeles County and work on prevention strategies as much as remedial measures.
Research and Data
Data-driven research has emerged as a big funding priority for Hilton in Phase II. Although Los Angeles County really is the main focus of Hilton’s homelessness strategy, the foundation wants to take what it’s learning on the local level and eventually share insights with other cities struggling with this issue too.
New Housing Units
Building new housing units isn’t Hilton’s only goal of this type of funding now, but it is still a big one. Phase II recognizes that there is a growing need for supportive housing units, and Hilton plans to address this by funding developers and housing providers to build new units and keep existing ones affordable.
In a news release, Senior Program Officer Andrea Iloulian wrote that in Phase II, “…the goals will no longer measure success based upon our individual impact; rather, we will measure our contribution to the collective work and shared goals of our partners throughout Los Angeles County.”
The good news out of all of this is that affordable housing is getting a lot of attention from funders and government entities these days, and that Hilton is staying in this space for the long run, with a homelessness strategy that seems to be helping. The foundation has a creative way of bringing city and county agencies and nonprofits together, rather than just throwing money at a cause. Hilton sees itself as not only a funder, but also a convener and partner in tackling local homelessness, which is a model that funders in other regions could learn from.