Home Los Angeles News LA County’s homeless agency hires CEO with blessing of Mayor Karen Bass

LA County’s homeless agency hires CEO with blessing of Mayor Karen Bass

LA County’s homeless agency hires CEO with blessing of Mayor Karen Bass

The agency in charge of conducting the Los Angeles County homeless count hired a new chief executive officer on Monday, Jan. 23, one day before the start of the massive, three-day canvass.

Va Lecia Adams Kellum becomes the fourth leader of the countywide Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency (LAHSA) in the past year.

LAHSA executive director Heidi Marston, was in charge for two years until she resigned in April 2022 over a dispute with a management committee of the LAHSA Commission, the same body that hired Adams Kellum.

Marston was criticized for upping the salaries of the 196 lowest-paid employees to about $50,000 a year from as little as $33,000. She wrote a five-page resignation letter outlining the dispute and spelling out bureaucratic roadblocks hampering agency efforts to house the homeless.

After that, the agency pulled Kristina Dixon and Molly Rysman, who already worked at LAHSA, into the role of co-executive directors. They were replaced by Stephen David Simon, who was given the title interim executive director on Sept. 15, 2022. Simon, who was working until last week on this week’s point-in-time homeless count, “will be transitioning out of the role,” said Christopher Yee, LAHSA spokesman, in an email on Monday.

Adams Kellum will be leaving her current job as president and CEO of St. Joseph Center, a social service organization that offers outreach services and housing to homeless people. She was a member of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s transition team and was instrumental in placing 213 homeless individuals into housing in Venice, part of Bass’s Inside Safe program.

She will earn a base salary of $430,000, according to a LAHSA staff report. Her contract is subject to review by the agency’s attorneys, according to staff reports. She will start as CEO of LAHSA on March 26.

But first, Adams Kellum will join the Bass administration on Feb. 5 and help lead the mayor’s Inside Safe program. Then in March she will transition into the role as chief executive officer of LAHSA, according to statement released by St. Joseph Center.

“It was a difficult decision to leave the people and mission that I love,” said Adams Kellum in a statement released Monday afternoon. “We have accomplished tremendous things together and we have so much to be proud of. But our success here at St. Joseph Center has prepared me to stay in my purpose and take on this hugely important effort.”

Adams Kellum was favored by Bass, and by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and Supervisor and LAHSA Commissioner Lindsey Horvath, who together appeared at a press conference Monday on the steps of L.A. City Hall to announce the LAHSA Commission’s decision to hire her to lead LAHSA.

“It is a privilege to help realize the goals of Inside Safe and create a reimagined, reinvigorated LAHSA,” said Adams Kellum.

Hahn said hiring Adams Kellum was part of the rejiggering of LAHSA, as well as the city’s and the county’s efforts to provide housing and services to the county’s 69,000 homeless.

“What LAHSA has done and, frankly, what our county and the city have done so far to address the homelessness crisis has not worked,” Hahn said in a prepared statement on Monday. Hahn wrote that Adams Kellum “is someone who has risen to meet the homelessness crisis in a bold way.”

“In Dr. Adams Kellum, we are bringing new leadership to LAHSA that is completely aligned with the new spirit of unity and urgency that the City and the County are bringing to our crisis of homelessness,” said Bass in a statement.

LAHSA coordinates and manages over $800 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs that provide shelter, housing, and services to people experiencing homelessness.

The Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count runs Tuesday, Jan. 24 through Thursday, Jan. 26. To volunteer to help count the homeless, visit: https://www.theycountwillyou.org/.

Staff Writer Linh Tat contributed to this article.