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LAHSA Director Resigns, Saying Employees Shouldn’t Be Paid So Little That They Could Qualify for Homeless Services

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority‘s executive director submitted her resignation letter Monday, citing disagreements over compensation for staff.

Heidi Marston noted that LAHSA previously paid employees as low as $33,119 a year, and as executive director she raised the 196 lowest compensated employees’ pay to $50,000 a year in March 2021.

“The employees of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority should not make so little that they qualify for homeless services themselves,” she said.

Along with increasing the compensation floor for LAHSA’s employees, Marston also stopped increasing the pay of the 10 highest paid employees, according to the letter.

Following her decision, she said she was accused of “undermining management’s position” in labor negotiations. She added that service providers believed she was trying to “poach” LAHSA’s staff.
 

“My journey in this role has revealed that when decisions are made that further drive the disparities and inequities we see in this work, the greatest manifestation of which is the homelessness crisis, being silent is no different than being complicit,” Marston said.

Marston’s letter said her resignation would be effective May 27.

She also said that in her time serving as LAHSA’s executive director, she has “faced the impossible dilemma of representing and driving LA’s best-practice homeless services, while charged with silent adoption of policy and funding decisions that stray from those best practices,” adding that speaking out on the decisions means threatening funding.

Marston’s letter was praised by the CEO of People Assisting The Homeless, or PATH, which contracts with the city to provide services to people experiencing homelessness.

“Having closely worked with Heidi Marston and LAHSA for a number of years, I am saddened to see her stepping down as executive director. Unfortunately, the current homeless services system is highly politicized and funding for proven solutions are subject to frequently changing winds of public opinion,” said PATH CEO Jennifer Hark Dietz. “Much of the work the current LA system does addresses the symptoms of homelessness, not the systemic causes. I applaud Heidi’s strength to call out the systems that cause and perpetuate homelessness.”

See her letter here.



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