Los Angeles, CA

Opinion: Turning over homeless housing faster a noble goal of HUD

David Heitz

A few months ago, I wrote about my dead neighbor being evicted from his Denver apartment. He died almost a year ago and his apartment still is vacant.

Now the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has created “Housing Central Command,” an approach that uses an emergency management structure to regulate the turnover of homeless housing.

The system, which has been implemented in Los Angeles and other communities, creates an alert the moment a unit becomes available. The thousands of case workers in Southern California who manage the units then seek to match people in crisis with available vacancies. The system aims to unite renter and landlord just 17 days after a unit becomes available, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently issued a news release announcing that a select number of communities will be provided intensive support to implement Housing Central Command.

From availability to new tenant in 17 days

The system wouldn’t speed up the problem of my dead neighbor’s unit. The system only kicks in from the moment the unit becomes available, which obviously isn’t always at the time of death.

A note was on my neighbor’s door in September demanding more than $1,000 in rent. The note said that if rent is not received by Sept. 18, eviction proceedings would begin. So, it appears it will be several more weeks before the unit is available, or however long the eviction takes.

For a dead person.

An emergency response

This is at a time when hundreds of people experiencing homelessness are on waiting lists for housing. Mayor Mike Johnston has declared homelessness an “emergency” in the city. He wants to house 1,000 homeless people by the end of the year.

On a process that seems a little broken, at least HUD is working on speeding up moving people experiencing homelessness into vacant apartments. The system also can be used to see in real time where units might be available as an encampment is shut down. It sounds like a system made for the House1000 plan. The region already uses a Homeless Management Information System, or HMIS.

Locating next of kin

I am incredibly grateful for my housing. For that reason, it pains me to see a dead person’s room remain empty when so many people would love to have it.

"Until next of kin is located, we cannot dispose of anyone’s belongings and if it takes a long time to identify a next of kin, the only way to dispose of left-behind belongings is to go through the eviction process to put next of kin on notice," said Cathy Alderman of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, which owns and operates Fusion. "We’ve had a few stops and starts on identifying a next of kin which is one reason why it is taking so long to turn the unit."

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at NewsBreakDave@gmail.com

Denver, CO

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