“You are wasting your time.” Kiana Matthews, E6 Outreach Midtown Assistant Director, heard these words often when she performed her first outreach at the encampment around 6th Street and Fairfax Boulevard in Los Angeles back in the Spring of 2020.
Matthews recalls speaking almost daily with residents, sharing food, water, and hygiene products whenever needed. She worked tirelessly, meeting and building rapport with unhoused neighbors even when there were feelings of hesitancy. “We are the providers on the ground explaining to clients what this project is, that we can connect them with mental health and medical services, and that our end goal is permanent housing,” shares Matthews.
With the pandemic underway, Matthews still experienced that reluctance. Pete had been let down in the past and felt he was better off on his own. Matthews continuously met with him, building trust and understanding.
Two years later, Los Angeles’ newly elected Mayor Karen Bass declared a local emergency regarding homelessness, to expedite the process of bringing affordable housing online, and to safely bring people indoors with dignity. On December 21st, 2022, Mayor Bass held a press conference at The People Concern headquarters where she announced and signed the “Inside Safe” initiative directive surrounded by advocates, supporters, and service providers. Inside Safe is a “housing-first” plan that offers immediate quality housing and a commitment of services to help people transition into permanent housing. Goals of this initiative include to reduce loss of life on the streets, increase access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and promote long-term housing stability.
Our Hollywood Outreach Team assisted with getting 30 people indoors in City Council District 4 thanks to hotel vouchers provided by Inside Safe. Soon after, a second team was assembled to tackle a location in City Council District 5, the same location where Matthews had met and assisted Pete. Matthews’ team got 43 clients indoors within three days. In both interventions, once clients are housed in these hotels and motels, case managers assist each one of their clients by getting them document-ready for when they are matched with permanent housing in addition to providing financial literacy resources such as connecting clients with General Relief or Social Security for those who qualify, and providing them with meals or gift cards for groceries and hygiene supplies.
Pete was one of the clients who took a leap of faith in the program after working with Matthews and is grateful he did; “I have a place to cook and have a warm meal which is great — especially during this bad weather,” he shares, as he looks over the puddles on the streets and sidewalks left by the week-long storm that had hit Los Angeles. With a roof over his head, Pete has an opportunity to work with his case manager regarding his mental health and has found temporary jobs as a construction worker. He has been approved for permanent housing and hopes to move into his own apartment mid-spring this year.