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FINDING A WAY HOME

One plan to lead them all

April 06, 2006

THE AIR WILL BE THICK WITH CONGRATULATIONS this morning on skid row, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, members of the County Board of Supervisors and others are scheduled to gather to announce a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Los Angeles. The plan, three years in the making, comes just two days after the supervisors voted to spend $100 million on improved services for the homeless on skid row and beyond.

Certainly it's better to have plans than not, and on that score the congratulations may be in order. But better still would be to have a single plan that city and county officials can work from.

The report being announced today is more of a wish list than a plan. It has more than 200 recommendations; add them up, and the cost could be billions of dollars a year. Calling for 50,000 units of new affordable housing, and the money to pay for them, is a fine idea. So is pushing for a summit of all 88 cities in the county to talk about why most of them ignore their own homeless and instead push them toward skid row. But too many ideas in the report are either politically or economically unfeasible or both.

City and county leaders should look the report over, study its recommendations -- and put it on the shelf and come up with a more realistic approach to dealing with homelessness in Los Angeles.

The county's latest effort, meanwhile, will not suffice. Yes, the supervisors have finally put their money where their mouths should have been all these years and have agreed to finance several new, important programs. When people at risk of becoming homeless leave hospitals or jails, they will get more support services, such as counseling, to see if they qualify for local and federal aid. They will also get help finding local housing. Five new regional "stabilization centers" across the county will provide temporary shelter and social services for transients.

As worthy as these two plans may be, nothing much will happen until city and county leaders come up with one plan that makes sense for everyone. It shouldn't take long. This week shows that there is no shortage of ideas among people in city and county government to alleviate L.A.'s homelessness problem. And it's certainly heartening to see both the city and the county starting to understand that a solution will take time and money.

On Wednesday, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told The Times that the combination of momentum and money to do something about homelessness presents city and county leaders with "an opportunity that will not pass our way again in our political lifetimes." All the more reason to come up with a single, realistic plan and execute it.

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