LA’s Homeless Services Director Calls It Quits

Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Director Heidi Marston tendered her resignation on Monday, April 25 with a public letter citing poor leadership in Los Angeles and on LAHSA’s governing board.

Marston’s resignation followed her unilateral decision to raise the wages of some LAHSA employees. This appears to be at the heart of her decision to step down.

“A year ago, I increased the minimum pay at LAHSA so no one made less than $50,000 a year. This change increased the pay for 196 of LAHSA’s lowest-compensated employees so that they could better afford to live. This funding came, in part, by freezing the compensation of LAHSA’s ten highest-compensated employees. Rather than taking steps to support, build upon, or replicate this action, those in power in the Los Angeles homelessness infrastructure pushed back against this desperately needed change,” wrote Marston.

Marston reiterated complaints about city and county leaders focusing on the visibility of homelessness rather than its core causes. She also expressed frustrations with LAHSA’s inability to effect meaningful change at the policy level.

“Power and funding alone control homelessness. But in our current system, organizations like the one I lead, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), are not given control over regulatory or policy decisions, service providers remain underfunded, and dedicated front-line employees of non-profit organizations and government entities are hamstrung by rules, red tape, and bureaucracy. We are denying power and funding to the very entities tasked with finding and implementing solutions,” she said.

Now, for some history:

Marston was appointed to the role in 2020. The organization’s last CEO, Peter Lynn, resigned in December 2019 amid an explosion in homelessness and questions about the organization’s competence and transparency. But the situation only worsened during Marston’s tenure and many homeless activists criticized her role in last year’s controversial sweep at Echo Park Lake. Marston has lamented the arrests that took place, saying the operation broke trust in organizations like LAHSA and should not have been carried out the way it was.

Marston’s resignation takes effect May 27.

Image Credit: Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority