Home For Good
Los Angeles Finally Has a Street Outreach Framework. Will It Work?
The City of Los Angeles is creating system-wide standards for outreach to encampments, and it’s encouraging to see it happen—especially watching the framework develop through a process of thoughtful outreach and collaboration with system partners. For the first time, the City has transparently documented its expectations for the work needed to help get someone experiencing unsheltered homelessness on a pathway to permanent housing.
City Council Guidance on Outreach Engagement
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed its first comprehensive Outreach Engagement Framework. The framework outlines roles and procedures for place-based or site-specific outreach to nearly 30,000 unsheltered residents. It allows councilmembers to introduce resolutions that prohibit sitting, sleeping, lying, and storing property in specific areas through the newly updated LA Municipal Code 41.18.
An unprecedented level of consultation led to this framework. The Street Engagement and Management component of the Outreach Engagement Framework draws on best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. We hope this spirit of collaboration continues as implementation unfolds.
Now, as councilmembers begin to introduce resolutions for their districts, many are wondering what this all really means in practice and how faithful the City will be to what they committed to. Here’s what we know so far and what we’re focusing on next.
Home For Good’s Street Strategy Annex on Managing Encampments
Earlier this year, Home For Good (HFG) released The Street Strategy Annex, which provides concrete recommendations for managing encampments through a balanced approach with transparent, consistent policies and procedures.
The annex recommends that the City:
- Adopt clear criteria to initiate services-led intervention based upon health, safety, and community needs
- Require elected officials to provide evidence in support of interventions and submit each intervention to a vote based on the evidence
- Create minimum standards to ensure that people are offered dignified, restorative, and safe housing options that meet their individual needs
- Ensure that realistic housing options and shelter spaces are available so outreach teams can make space available as encampments are removed
- Provide access to storage and end arbitrary limits on personal property
- Minimize law enforcement roles in outreach and establish the right for unhoused people to decline offers without threat of arrest, citation, or any punitive law enforcement action
- Collect data on housing placements and connecting people to services
What are the Positive Developments?
Home for Good is encouraged to see many of our recommendations reflected in a transparent outreach and engagement protocol for unsheltered residents that applies to all place-based interventions citywide, including both 41.18 enforcement and Encampment to Home projects.
Service-Led, Housing-Focused Outreach
The framework prioritizes engagement by providers that can deliver trauma-informed and housing-focused outreach. Law enforcement has no official role outlined in the outreach framework, though service providers, LAHSA, and sanitation workers can request law enforcement presence when needed.
Engagement begins with a site evaluation that identifies resources to connect people with shelter or interim housing and services as needed, and includes a focus on access to hygiene and sanitation services. This will be backed by heightened efforts to increase permanent housing like the proposed Housing Now Fund, which would target 10,000 housing subsidies to unsheltered residents with severe mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
Process Coordination and Oversight
Clarity of roles and responsibilities is critical to the success of this work. Council offices that introduce 41.18 resolutions or begin Encampment to Home projects will lead the coordination of system partners. In addition, a newly created City Homeless Outreach Coordination Unit will work alongside partners to monitor service delivery, coordinate access to resources, and evaluate programs.
Data and Evaluation
Data will be collected daily to increase transparency on progress and housing outcomes and to evaluate impact. The framework included a requirement for a report-back in March 2022 that evaluates progress, lessons learned, and identifies additional funding needs.
An additional motion currently under review recommends that offers of shelter or housing fit an unsheltered person’s needs and align with opportunities for long-term permanent housing. It also calls for non-law enforcement transportation to placements, adequate storage for personal property, the ability to stay together as family or social units in interim housing, and, when requested, alternative offers to congregate shelter while health guidelines advise against such conditions.
Where is it Coming Up Short?
Some elements of the framework are insufficient, unclear, or problematic.
Subjective Thresholds for Intervention
The framework does not clearly identify how to meet the outlined requirements for intervention, and there are no limits to how many sites Councilmembers can target. While some councilmembers may carefully target sites with serious health and safety concerns, the framework does not protect against interventions that lack sufficient evidence of need.
We learned from the clearing of Echo Park that without clear notice, transparent timelines, trusted communicators, and clear pathways to permanent housing, interventions breed confusion, chaos, and mistrust. Our Street Strategy Annex recommends encampment residents be notified before any place-based, targeted intervention begins, to increase transparency and trust. Unfortunately, this language is not present in the final outreach framework which simply states that an engagement timeline will be “established and communicated” to relevant system partners, but not necessarily to those living at the target site. The only clearly-defined notice period is that, following the completion of the outreach intervention, 41.18 enforcement can only begin fourteen days after signs outlining the ordinance’s restrictions are posted.
The closure of MacArthur Park, though less chaotic, did not include sufficient transparency and has not prioritized pathways to permanent housing. Though the City provided notice in advance of the park closure, unhoused residents at the park had not previously been notified that recent offers of shelter were tied to an imminent closure and forced displacement. Due to the recent history of Echo Park and the mistrust it created, many community members were angered to learn that another park would be cleared without adequate community engagement and notice for all affected unhoused residents. Advanced notification, transparent communication, and preparation for encampment residents before interventions are critically important and should be clearly defined in future iterations of the protocol.
Illusion of Decriminalization
We cannot ignore that the outreach protocol was developed to support the implementation of 41.18. Through this law, the City Council has told unhoused Angelenos where they cannot be—without providing an answer to where they can be.
The code explicitly states that anyone “who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs” enforcement or “willfully refuses to comply after being requested to do so” shall be subject to L.A. Municipal Code Section 11. This language suggests reduced criminalization, but in practice means that anyone who interferes with enforcement or refuses to comply can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Shorter Timelines, Limited System Capacity
The initial report from the City Administrative Officer included a four-month window to successfully complete interventions, but by the time the protocol was finalized, that window shrank to 30 days. We do not have enough interim or permanent resources to conduct these interventions at scale and within this shortened time frame. When passing the protocol, the City approved using existing funds to increase the number of LAHSA Homeless Engagement Teams dedicated to these interventions but did not provide the necessary additional support for the lead service providers. Meanwhile, councilmembers are already introducing large numbers of 41.18 resolutions that go well beyond current system capacity.
Connection to Larger System
The biggest threat we see is the diversion of resources from prioritizing the people with the greatest need—helping people whose lives grow shorter with every passing day on the street—into expensive, potentially traumatic, place-based interventions often driven by complaints from housed residents. Though the protocol states that Coordinated Entry System (CES) assessments of vulnerability and need will be conducted where possible, it is unclear how these interventions will be incorporated into the larger homeless service system. Will people living at these sites be prioritized over those already assessed and waiting for housing in other sheltered or unsheltered locations? What plan ensures that these place-based initiatives do not simply push resources toward highly visible encampments at the expense of historically marginalized or more vulnerable groups?
The Outreach Engagement Framework is a positive step forward. That’s not to say it’s perfect: several areas fall short, and careful monitoring of implementation will be needed. At Home for Good, we are most concerned about scarce resources being allocated based on location rather than need. And we will continue to push back against criminalization and displacement of unsheltered residents without adequate shelter and housing options. We will never arrest our way out of homelessness, and we know that simply pushing people from one place to another solves nothing.