Tackling Homelessness in LA

Indian Voices
April 18, 2023

Chris Contreras is working miracles in the incredibly shrinking world of affordable housing in one of the nation’s largest epicenters of homelessness. He is the development director of Brilliant Corners, a housing services non-profit based in Los Angeles.

“California accounts for about one third of the entire U.S. homeless population. At last count, over 170,000 Californians are unhoused with at least 60,000 living in Los Angeles County on any given night,” Contreras said.

“We operate the Los Angeles Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, or Flex for short, which is a nationally recognized supportive housing model that helps thousands of people exit homelessness each year,” Contreras said. The program launched in 2014 as a public-private partnership with rental subsidies and case management services.

The L.A. housing crisis disproportionately affects communities of color. Black Angelinos make up 8% of L.A.’s population but account for more than 30% of its homeless individuals, Contreras says.

“We also have seen a 26% rise in Latino homelessness, meaning that Latinos now make up 44% of L.A. County homeless.”

The solution to chronic homelessness lies in coordinating resources from a number of stakeholders: owners, builders, the criminal justice system, and healthcare systems, as well as rental subsidies, either from federal or local funding, Contreras said. With that support, his program taps dedicated professionals who build relationships with landlords and developers to secure existing and new units, as well as dedicated housing services and case management services to support an individual’s transition to long term stability in their new home.

Brilliant Corners creates a pool of housing units that can be matched quickly to any client experiencing homelessness. It saves landlords the trouble of advertising a vacancy by paying them two months’ rent in advance. To date, the Flex has sponsored relationships with more than 1,100 of these so-called scattered-site landlords.