While people don’t ordinarily think of the homeless when they think of palm treelined, mansion-filled Beverly Hills, the city has a small population of unhoused—there are currently 39 homeless individuals in the city, according to a 2022 count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority—and has long tried addressing how best to conduct outreach to this group. Additionally, as the homeless crisis has worsened throughout Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills has committed to doing its part.
“The one thing I would underscore is the urgency to get this done,” Mayor Dr. Julian Gold said during the Aug. 15 meeting. “The beds are not going to be there forever…we have to do this. Other cities around us are doing this, and the general expectation is we’re all going to participate in solving this crisis or at least in slowing it down.”
The city is entering into an agreement with Step Up on Second, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit that provides permanent supportive housing, supportive services and workforce development to those experiencing serious mental health conditions and chronic homelessness.
The model being undertaken by the city aims to serve both the chronically and non-chronically homeless, which are categories established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The former refers to those who’ve been homeless for more than a year and typically have a physical or mental disability or a substance abuse issue, while the non-chronic homeless describes those who need short-term aid due to experiencing a catastrophic event in their lives, such as a job loss or major health issue.
“We find that most of the homeless people in the city of Beverly Hills are with the chronically homeless population,” Chris Paulson, the city’s human services administrator, said.
The agreement stems from an earlier proposal made by the City Council Unhoused Services Ad Hoc Committee to contract with Step Up on Second for 40 units of scattered-site permanent supportive housing for the unhoused.
The agreed-upon program will, instead, serve both the chronically and non-chronically unhoused. It places 30 of the city’s most chronically homeless individuals into permanent housing while moving off the street and into temporary motel housing up to 200 non-chronic homeless individuals over the course of 10 years, as the motel stays can accommodate up to 20 individuals annually.
The program allocates $42,000 annually, enough to house 20 individuals a year at an average rate of $150 per night.
In addition to housing, each housed individual receives case management and other support services provided by Step Up, which has worked to support those with psychosocial needs since 1984, according to the organization’s website. Step Up’s first permanent supportive housing community, featuring 36 units, was built in 1994.
For the permanent housing aspect of the initiative, the homeless tenants will be placed in community-based apartment units owned by independent landlords. Step Up has an agreement with an apartment building owner who has a Hollywood building with 30 units. Each tenant will have an individual lease with the building owner, although Step Up will facilitate and manage the process, according to a city staff report. This means Step Up makes the rent payments directly to the property owner, and the tenant pays a portion of the rent—30% of monthly income—from Social Security or disability payments, according to a staff report.
Additionally, Step Up will provide the city with regular reports on how the program is going.
Once the contract between the city and Step Up is executed, the Santa Monica nonprofit will be ready to accept referrals for housing starting the first week of September 2023.
The program’s total cost is $14,177,026. Its annual cost is approximately $1.6 million.
The agreement underscores the city’s longstanding commitment to addressing the homelessness crisis. Since 2014, Beverly Hills has contracted with People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) for five shelter beds, which are currently full. And for nearly 10 years, Beverly Hills has worked with Step Up on homeless outreach and a housing placement program.
Those present at the recent meeting included Step Up CEO Tod Lipka. Speaking about past successes of similar programs, Lipka pointed to an individual who was homeless in Beverly Hills for 30 years, was housed in Step Up building in 2013 and has been living there for the past 10 years.
While the program represented a novel approach to addressing an increasingly urgent crisis in the city, Paulson stressed it was a beginning, not an ending, to solving the problem.
“This is a very innovative program that will do a lot to help our homeless population here,” he said, “but I also want to be clear this will not single-handedly end homelessness in the city of Beverly Hills.”