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United Way Blog

Prop HHH: A Victory for Compassion in Solving Homelessness

Compassion and understanding won in Los Angeles with the passage of Prop HHH on Nov. 8. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, designed to end chronic homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing for the 28,000 homeless people living in Los Angeles.

“In an election cycle filled with polarization, the enthusiastic confirmation of Prop HHH shows the power of what can happen when people come together to understand that human compassion is needed to solve human problems,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Although non-profits are prohibited from engaging in partisan politics, they are allowed to spend a portion of funds on advocacy-oriented campaigning to advance their missions. United Way of Greater Los Angeles has led a cross-sector alliance of government, business, community and philanthropic partners to tackle the issue of homelessness since 2007. This election year, United Way of Greater Los Angeles helped draft the language for Prop HHH and endorsed it. UWGLA played a key role in coordinating the campaign for the measure, with Buik serving as the Prop HHH campaign co-chair.

“Polling showed homelessness to be a top voter concern, but we still faced a significant battle with Prop HHH being located at the bottom of a long, exhausting ballot of 32 items,” said Buik. “It was imperative for United Way to help get the word out that the bottom of the ballot needed as much attention as the top.”

Supporters framed the debate as supportive housing doing far more than arresting panhandlers and confiscating tents. A “human-centered” campaign put a face on the problem of homelessness, with outreach like postcards with handwritten messages from homeless Angelenos, and from supporters and volunteers.

It’s part of a larger effort to reduce veterans’ homelessness. United Way is proud to have helped reduce veteran homelessness by 60% in Los Angeles. But there are still more than 1,600 homeless veterans in the city of Los Angeles.

Prop HHH could help eliminate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles in 2017, United Way believes. For the average Los Angeles homeowner, the cost will be $32.87 per year.

“Part of the success of Prop HHH was United Way and more than 100 other business and community organizations getting the word out that supportive housing is by far more humane, more effective and more economical than reactive, crackdown approaches,” said Buik.

In fact, permanent supportive housing is 43% less expensive than leaving people on the streets and has more than a 90% local success rate. With the passage of Prop HHH, Los Angeles will be able to triple the construction of supportive housing from 300 units per year to 1,000 within three years.