Orange County Has A New 'homeless Czar' Tasked With Streamlining Services And Getting People Sheltered

When Andrew Do won a seat on the Board of Supervisors last year, he realized that Orange County was poorly equipped to tackle an urgent problem — homelessness.

"The county suffers from what I would call 'the silo effect,'" he said of the disjointed nature of county services such as housing, healthcare and food stamps. "There is no coordination at all with the resources that we have to help these individuals."

This phrase, the subject of the similarly named book by Gillian Tett, refers to the disastrous results when an organization is fragmented and the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

"A homeless person has to go to each office, each different department to get all of those areas lined up," added Do. "Think about it: They don't have any way to move around, and they can't leave their worldly belongings unattended, so we've set up a system that makes it very difficult for them to get on top of what they need in their lives."

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Last fall, Do set out to solve this problem by proposing a new countywide position: a social care coordinator — which many have dubbed the "homeless czar" — to offer policy expertise to the supervisors and streamline services for the estimated 15,000 county residents who experience homelessness at some point each year.

"There should be only one phone number so that the homeless individual or mental health patient — and not just them but their family and friends — only have to call one phone number, and then the coordinator will be the conduit to all county services," he said.

Homeless man asleep in Laguna Beach
Don Leach / Weekend

A homeless man sleeps on the curb at Mountain Road and South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.

A homeless man sleeps on the curb at Mountain Road and South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.

(Don Leach / Weekend)

The Board of Supervisors approved his proposal, and on May 27, Susan Price, a veteran of Long Beach's homeless services, started as Orange County's first-ever social care coordinator at a salary of $158,000 a year.

Price said it's too early for her to articulate a specific vision for how she wants to address homelessness, which increased 5% between 2013 and 2015, according to the county's biennial point-in-time homelessness survey.

Source : http://www.latimes.com/socal/weekend/news/tn-wknd-et-new-oc-homeless-czar-20160625-story.html

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