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Volunteers fan out to survey Hollywood's homeless

Cataloging them and their needs helps speed social services to those most at risk, officials say. Similar efforts in New York, Santa Monica and Long Beach have helped hundreds into permanent housing.

May 12, 2010|By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times

In Long Beach, a survey in July allowed outreach workers to identify elderly and disabled people who qualified for federal cash assistance, said Roberts of Path Partners. Others surveyed turned out to be eligible for housing vouchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs. So far, 52 people have been placed in housing, with local churches donating furniture and government agencies and nonprofits managing their cases and treatment.

The programs are aimed at people who have lived on the streets for at least six months, many of whom suffer from mental and physical issues, including alcohol and drug abuse.

Previously, homeless people were usually required to get sober before they would be offered permanent housing. But experts on the homeless are finding that it is easier to resolve addictions and other issues that land people on the streets when they have a stable place to sleep and keep their medication.

On the streets of Hollywood last month, volunteers counted 323 homeless people and 257 of them agreed to be interviewed. The results were released at a community meeting April 30. More than 40% reported health conditions associated with a high mortality risk, such as HIV or cirrhosis of the liver. The oldest was 80, the youngest 15.

As photographs of the most at-risk were displayed on a screen, representatives of government and private agencies said they could provide subsidized housing for 100 to 120 of them. Others in the room, including local business owners, stood up to pledge money toward relocating them. A total of $62,000 was raised.

Kerry Morrison, who manages two Hollywood business-improvement districts and was the driving force behind the survey, said at least three homeless people have died on neighborhood streets in the last two years.

"When you begin to hear people's stories, learn their names, find out where they're from and what led them into this situation, it's really hard to not get involved in helping," she said.

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