April 19, 2021
Dear Supervisors Solis, Mitchell, Kuehl, Hahn and Barger:
The National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) is a group of national organizations who have aligned behind seeking housing justice in order to end homelessness. We have come together to coordinate advocacy efforts, develop policy recommendations, and leverage our collective tools to garner the attention of both lawmakers and the public to meet that goal. Housing justice for us means guaranteeing opportunities for everyone in our country to have affordable, safe, accessible, stable housing through a racial justice approach.
It has come to our attention that Dr. Drew Pinsky has been nominated to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Commission. While we do not often weigh in on local issues, the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) and LAHSA hold an important place in the homelessness field as the second largest CoC in the nation. Appointing a celebrity who is unqualified and misinformed to a position that makes critical decisions on homelessness policy and program design is both dangerous and alarming.
We are deeply disappointed that this nomination is moving forward, especially given that it is in direct conflict with the governance work currently underway and harms the organization’s pursuit of goals related to racial justice and equity.
Specifically, we are concerned about Dr. Pinsky’s positions on key policies and practices, as well as his disregard for data and evidence. Some relevant examples include:
- Dr. Pinsky consistently ignores the structural issues that lead to homelessness, choosing instead to blame homelessness on homeless people. Against all evidence, Dr. Drew does not believe that the housing crisis – and the fundamental mismatch between incomes and housing costs – is a primary driver of homelessness. He has called the housing crisis and evidence-based, proven solutions like Housing First a hoax.
- According to research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are fewer than four homes affordable and available for every ten extremely low-income households. And there is not enough from the federal government: despite the need, just one in four eligible households receives any housing assistance because of chronic underfunding. Other factors that contribute to homelessness include chronic health conditions, domestic violence, and systemic inequality.
- Housing First is a proven model for addressing homelessness that prioritizes access to permanent, stable housing. Housing First recognizes that stable housing is a prerequisite for effective psychiatric and substance abuse treatment and for improving quality of life. Once stably housed, individuals are better able to take advantage of wrap-around services – to help support housing stability, employment, and recovery. Without stable housing, attaining these goals becomes much more difficult.
- He does not support patient choice for mental health and substance use treatment, and instead favors stringent and broad institutionalization policies. In fact, he has called advocates for patient choice “murderers.”
- Dr. Pinsky advocates for criminalizing homelessness, rather than real solutions. He has endorsed failed models – like San Antonio’s Haven for Hope – that use the threat of jail to force people into a shelter or campus. Criminalization policies make the problem of homelessness worse. When homeless people are saddled with cripplingly high fines and fees for minor traffic tickets or incarcerated for having to live outdoors, it hurts their employment and housing options, access to education, family stability, and communities. Criminalization is expensive, ineffective, and violates individuals’ constitutional rights. Dr. Drew’s positions run contrary to Los Angeles stated goals to reinvest resources from criminalization and enforcement to community investments that address racial inequities.
- He supported the Trump Administration’s false and misleading statements on homelessness.
- Dr. Pinsky has promoted anti-immigrant rhetoric, claiming “a large immigrant population coming in carrying parasites and tuberculosis” has contributed to public health challenges in homeless encampments. Dehumanizing language like this has contributed to the recent rise in anti-AAPI violence and has no origin in fact. He also refers to people experiencing homelessness as “transients.”
- Before contracting the virus himself, he called COVID-19 a “press-induced panic.”
We urge you to identify a qualified and compassionate candidate for this important role, and to withdraw or vote down the nomination of Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Members of the National Coalition for Housing Justice
A Way Home America
Funders Together to End Homelessness
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Homelessness Law Center
National Innovation Service
National Low Income Housing Coalition
True Colors United