But street dweller Mark Anthony Debartolo, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, told legal advocates that no one asked about his mental health when he applied for general relief last year. He said he has lived in Los Angeles for most of his 49 years but doesn't know how to prove it. He sleeps next to an abandoned building in Hollywood and avoids shelters after being robbed at one.
Advocates for the homeless note that Watanabe's study identified just eight instances in which applicants were allegedly out-of-county residents. They argue that the county should focus on getting people like Debartolo off general relief and onto federal disability assistance, which provides more aid.
A newly instituted program to do just that, approved at Knabe's request, appears to be yielding results. In the first year ending in June 2011, 8,380 people came off general relief and began receiving federal Supplemental Security Income, 25% more than the previous year. That has contributed to a steady decline in the general relief caseload since it peaked at 113,334 in August.