Homeless encampment

A tent at a homeless encampment at Yucca Avenue and Avenue I was red-tagged by city officials, meaning inhabitants have a short time to evacuate.

LANCASTER — Antelope Valley residents who want to help connect people experiencing homelessness with outreach services have an option, but not many people are using it.

The Los Angeles County Homeless Outreach Portal, also known as LA-HOP, provides a streamlined county-wide web-based portal designed to assist people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County with voluntary outreach services.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, in collaboration with L.A. County Health Agency and the LA County Homeless Initiative, launched the online portal (at www.la-hop.org) last July.

“Anyone can submit a referral; it can be a concerned citizen, an elected official, first responders like law enforcement, and also self-referrals for people experiencing homelessness themselves,” Jacqueline Beltran, a Coordinated Entry System Outreach Coordinator for LA Homeless Services Authority told the Lancaster Homeless Impact Commission Thursday morning.

LA-HOP is meant to take the guesswork out of who should be contacted. But the portal isn’t widely used in the Antelope Valley.

The Antelope Valley’s homeless population increased 2.8% this year to 3,292 homeless persons over last year’s figures, according to the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

LA-HOP is designed to allow users to submit requests for homeless outreach. After a request is submitted an outreach coordinator reviews the request, designates a priority level, and assigns it to an outreach team. The team lead assigns the request to the appropriate team member, who then connects with the homeless individual.

There were 181 total requests to LA-HOP over the past year within Service Planning Area No. 1, which covers the Antelope Valley, Of those, 167 requests are closed. Ten requests are open, five requests are under review, and four need follow-up. Requests are typically assigned in one day with an average of 16 days for an outreach worker to connect with the homeless individual.

In the City of Lancaster, there were 123 requests over the past year, of which 113 are closed, seven open, four under review, and three need follow-up. Requests in the City are typically assigned in one day with an average of 18 days for an outreach worker to connect with the homeless individual.

“They seem really low; how does this compare to other SPAs?” Commissioner Hector Acosta asked.

Beltran said Service Planning Area No. 2, which covers the San Fernando Valley, and Service Planning Area No. 4, which covers the City of Los Angeles, have had the most requests.

“We haven’t had a lot of community facing requests in SPA 1,” Beltran said.

The difference, Beltran suggested, is that fewer people in the Antelope Valley are aware of LA-HOP.

“People don’t know about it yet here. I think that’s the big piece,” Commission Chairwoman Donna Termeer said.

Vice Chairwoman Sgt. Teresa Dawson asked why it took up to 18 days to close out some requests.

Beltran said that of the 123 requests in the City of Lancaster there were about three requests open for longer than 60 days, which increased the average time to 18 days.

“Is it that we need more outreach workers in the community? Is that why we’re not reaching as many people are we possibly could?” Commissioner Nigel Holly asked.

“For Service Planning Area 1 I don’t think it’s the teams, it’s more the lack of housing resources and the ability to connect clients to bridge housing, any sort of shelter,” Beltran said. “There’s very limited resources in this area. …There’s a bottleneck, there’s no resources to connect them to.”

Sgt. Dawson of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station said there needs to be more education about LA-HOP, in particular with first responders.

“I have never heard of this program until I  became involved with the homeless,” Dawson said. “We’re not being taught this. We’re not being showed this, and there hasn’t been any presentations at our stations.”

Dawson added they come across the homeless every day.

“If an effort can be made to come to the stations, I can help you coordinate that,” Dawson said.

“I think the ultimate goal is we want to connect the community to the resource,” Holly said.

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