Lancaster homeless

A homeless camp off Sierra Highway and Avenue L in Lancaster is reinforced with a block wall last year. The city has asked to have input on a system that connects homeless people with housing and other services.

LANCASTER — The City Council unanimously agreed to request that Lancaster be included as an evaluator and have input on request for proposal for the Coordinated Entry System lead for Service Planning Area 1.

The Coordinated Entry System connects people experiencing homelessness to housing and others services.

Los Angeles County is divided up into eight service planning areas; Service Planning Area 1, also known as SPA-1, covers the Antelope Valley. In 2015, nonprofit organization Valley Oasis won a competitive grant from the Los Angeles Homeless Services authority to serve as the SPA-1 lead.

Valley Oasis has an approximately $20 million annual budget that comes from multiple sources.

The Council also agreed to direct staff to request that the LA Homeless Services Authority and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to conduct a request for proposal process for the Coordinated Entry System lead agreement for SPA-1.

Valley Oasis has been providing services to Antelope Valley residents since 1981, initially providing a domestic violence shelter. The nonprofit’s services have grown over the past 40 years to include services for people experiencing homelessness.

Valley Oasis has an approximately $20 million annual budget that comes from multiple sources. Valley Oasis gets funding from the LA Homeless Services Authority via Measure H.

Measure H is the voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax initiative, which generates funds for the specific purposes of funding homeless services and short-term housing.

In December, dozens of families faced the potential of being put out on the street five days before Christmas due to funding shortfalls from Measure H as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They ultimately remained.

Valley Oasis CEO Carol Crabson, speaking to the Council before the vote, said Valley Oasis did not receive their signed contracts from LA Homeless Services Authority until the middle to the end of August. They used their reserves to cover expenses.

“We have continued to be in talks,” Crabson said, adding they are able to extend the vouchers through March 13.

“How is it that a nonprofit agency has essentially taken all of the funding and put it under one umbrella and has appointed their own board that none of us have heard of?” Mayor R. Rex Parris asked.

Parris said the city has not done its job. The primary reason it came to the city’s attention was in December when people who faced potential eviction from the motels called the city.

Emergency funding came through to cover the families’ vouchers through Friday, and now through March 13.

“We have not been diligent and the purpose of this meeting is to figure out a way for us to be diligent and fix this problem,” Parris said.

Parris said Valley Oasis should have proper oversight.

“You can figure out a way to work with us and coming together with us and having the appropriate oversight, or you can go to battle with us,” Parris said.

Parris added he will not allow $20 million a year to be diverted while the city is forcing people into the desert.

Mayor R. Rex Parris said there should be more oversight of how that money is spent.

“I don’t think that you’re not competent; I think you’ve allowed your organization to become so isolated that it’s now adversarial,” Parris said. “That is different, and I think that you would be doing a much better service for people if you were able to pick up the phone to the city manager and say, ‘Hey, I need your help on this’ and have it forthcoming.’ ”

Crabson said Valley Oasis does have oversight via regular audits.

Parris said most of what Valley Oasis has accomplished is noteworthy but added the level of isolation will no longer be tolerated.

Crabson agreed.

“I appreciate your offer; I appreciate you starting this whole conversation by saying that we need to love each other; that we need to work together,” Crabson said. “These are serious times and I am open to any guidance; I am open to any recommendations that you have. … I would like to see us move forward.”

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