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How New York’s Homeless Services Differ From LA

One of LA’s biggest homeless encampments is nestled below the 405 Freeway overpass at Venice Boulevard.

Dylan Brumley rummages through trash there, looking for food. He and about 40 others call the encampment home.

Most of the people living here say they’re struggling with drug addiction or mental illness.

Outreach workers with the LA’s Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA, sometimes visit the site. But Brumley said he sees them mostly just handing out snacks.

In a recent audit, LA’s city controller found that LAHSA has failed on its mission to connect the homeless with drug and mental health treatment, as well as housing.

“We’re not getting enough results and we have to get better,” Ron Galperin said.

Galperin looks to New York as a city that’s doing outreach the right way.

“The lifespan of an individual who is street homeless can be up to 25 years shorter than somebody who lives inside,” said Lauren Taylor of Manhattan Outreach.

New York deploys an army of outreach workers to get its homeless to move indoors. It has one outreach worker for every eight people on the streets — compared to LA, which has one for every 33.

New York also has round-the-clock outreach staff based at homeless hotspots like Grand Central Station and the subways.

Outreach workers track every interaction with the homeless using a system called “Streetsmart.”

It’s an organized, data-driven approach that LA City Controller Galperin says would vastly improve LA’s outreach outcomes.

“It’s a way to hold officers and departments responsible, and to gather the numbers and to actually react based on numbers,” Galperin said.

New York‘s approach seems to be getting people off the streets.

During an early morning ride-along with a Harlem outreach team, we drove for blocks, and through parks, and couldn’t find any homeless people living outdoors.

“We’ve brought in from the streets 2,200 people who’ve remained off the streets,” said New York City Department of Homeless Services’ Stephen Banks said.

Until things change in Los Angeles, people like Dylan Brumley will wait for help.

Jesse Gault was once homeless on LA’s Skid Row. He moved to New York a few months ago and already has housing.

“I’m very thankful I have a place. I look good, clean clothes, I can take a shower now, and I can start actually acquiring the things I need to get my life back,” Gault said.

Homeless advocates in New York say their system is far from perfect. While the city has fewer people on the streets, thousands of men, women and children are being housed for long periods in temporary shelters. They say their city needs a lot more permanent housing.

Read more Streets of Shame coverage on NBCLA.com:

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