Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, announced on Monday that he will be stepping down from his role as the leader of the region’s top homeless agency, after holding the position for five years. The announcement comes as homelessness rates continue to soar in L.A., with nearly 60,000 people living on the streets or in cars as of the last LAHSA count.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lynn said that he decided to step down after a two-month medical absence related to a car accident allowed him to see things from a new perspective. Upon leaving the $242,000-a-year job at the end of this month, he plans to remain in the homelessness field, focusing on initiatives such as mental illness, substance abuse, and reentry programs.
“Boy, these have felt like some long five years,” Lynn told the Times.“I mean I have really enjoyed this, this role and this gig and I have also felt quite a lot of wear and tear from it.”
The agency, which serves 88 different local governments across the county, has grown exponentially while Lynn has been at its helm. This was in large part due to two local tax measures—Measure H and Proposition HHH—which flooded LAHSA with money, requiring it to hire hundreds of new employees, and funding a massive expansion of its homeless services system.
During that time, the region’s homelessness crisis also exploded, with the total number of homeless Angelenos rising 33 percent since Lynn took over the role in December 2014. Tasked with announcing these rising rates each year, Lynn has stressed that housing affordability is among the issues at the root of the increases. He told the Times he aimed to shift the conversation from the “personal characteristics of the people who are homeless … to structural factors, like housing affordability, like lack of access to mental health, like lack of access to substance use treatment.”
In an “Exit Interview” with KCRW on Monday, Lynn said that while he thinks the agency is “stronger than it’s ever been,” he’s frankly “a little tired.” He cited a lack of resources as a reason why the job has been so difficult. “Homelessness in Los Angeles is at crisis proportions,” said Lynn. “And the housing affordability here has been driving people into homelessness at unprecedented levels. And you know, frankly, we don’t have the resourcing yet commensurate to the need.”
LAHSA will now begin a national search for the next candidate to take on the hefty job. In the meantime, Chief Program Officer Heidi Marston will fill in as interim director.
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