Even with funding boost, tackling LA homelessness remains tough challenge

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The plight of the homeless can be a downward spiral with seemingly few exits.

It's a reality Zondre Johnson found herself in for nearly 40 years.

"From the age of 14 to 53 I lived here, there with everybody, in and out of incarceration," Johnson said. "I never thought I had a future."

But Johnson says she escaped homelessness after seeking out supportive housing from Los Angeles County.

The 55-year-old spoke of her experiences on the street and how she found a permanent place to live at Stories from the Frontline, a new speaking series designed to make firsthand homeless stories more accessible to the public.

"It stirs empathy and they see that people can recover," said Marilyn Wells who created Stories from the Frontline.

But finding homes for those people has not gotten any easier, despite Los Angeles voters approving Proposition HHH in 2016. The bond measure has raised more than $1 billion but has yet to put a dent in the city's homeless problem.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says the housing is on the way.

"The first year you collect the taxes, the second year you start allocating them and construction, though you have to design the project, you have to find the pieces of land," Garcetti told Eyewitness News. "We will see literally dozens and dozens and dozens, 108 projects so far that will house people representing more than 7,000 units of affordable housing."

Tommy Newman, the director of public affairs for United Way of Greater Los Angeles, says those housing units are badly needed.

'We've got a long way to go," said Newman. "There's more money coming from the state. We're asking for the state to take some of that surplus and invest it in this kind of housing because we know it works. Supportive housing has a 90% success rate."

And it looks like the state may be adding more funds to affordable housing. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is now requesting an additional $150 million for homeless programs in the upcoming state budget.

Those are funds Zondre Johnson says will help pull more people out of the cycle of homelessness.

"There are ways out," Johnson said. "There definitely need to be more."
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