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A step away from skid row

Project 50 could be the beginning of a coordinated response to homelessness in L.A.

December 26, 2007

Earlier this month, about two dozen Los Angeles County workers spent several nights walking skid row at 4 a.m., waking people who slept on the streets to ask them who they were and how they were doing. The answers helped create a registry of skid row street residents; the county and the city now promise to use that data to put the 50 most vulnerable in permanent homes with the healthcare, drug treatment, mental health services and counseling they need.

It's part of Project 50, a program guided by Common Ground, a nonprofit organization that has led efforts to house the homeless in New York. Los Angeles took decades to become the nation's homeless capital, but Project 50 has moved swiftly since the time the program was launched here in October. The substantive phase -- housing the 50 -- begins next month with apartments provided by the Skid Row Housing Trust with city assistance.

Project 50 is a small step, but it is a step. It provides a template for county departments to coordinate rationally, allowing social and health workers to do the work that attracted them to public service in the first place. It provides a guide for the county to cooperate with city housing agencies. Fifty is not enough, but the next step is 100, then 1,000, then 10,000.

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