The executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority resigned Monday, citing low pay for agency staff as a major reason for her resignation.
In a statement released on Medium, Heidi Marston said when she became CEO of LAHSA, some of the organization’s employees earned as little as $ 33,119 a year, or about $ 2,760 a month before tax. She noted that by federal government standards, that salary is well below the “very low income” category.
“Employees of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority should not earn so little that they themselves qualify for homeless services,” she wrote.
She says she increased the minimum wage at LAHSA so no one would earn less than $ 50,000 a year, raising wages to 196 of the lowest paid employees. But the increase came at a cost to the organization’s 10 highest paid employees, whose compensation was frozen.
These moves led to accusations that Marston “undermined management’s position” in labor negotiations and sought to “poach” LAHSA staff. So Marston said she decided to resign, which would take effect on May 27.
“This decision did not come easily, but it was the right thing to do,” she tweeted. “LASA and our system partners perform miracles every day, and unfortunately they will continue to hit a wall until fundamental changes are made in the way we deal with homelessness in LA and across the country.”
“We value the men and women of LAHSA who work every day to stop homelessness in the city and county of Los Angeles. Our LAHSA employees are at the core of what we do and who we serve. We will continue to focus on that. most important issues that stop homelessness and make people switch from shelters to permanent housing, “said LAHSA Commission Vice President Wendy Greuel.
Jennifer Hark Dietz, CEO of People Assisting The Homeless, which contracts with the city of Los Angeles to provide services to people experiencing homelessness, regretted Marston’s decision to resign.
“Unfortunately, the current homelessness system is heavily politicized, and the funding of proven solutions is subject to frequently changing winds in public opinion.” Dietz tweeted. “Much of the work that the current LA system does addresses the symptoms of homelessness, not the systemic causes. I applaud Heidi’s strength in evoking the systems that cause and perpetuate homelessness.”
LAHSA issued a statement announcing Marston’s decision to leave the company and praising her leadership of the agency for the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The chair of the LAHSA Commission, Jacqueline Wagoner, stated that “LAHSA’s priority is to serve people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. fulfill LAHSA’s mission. Interim management will be appointed shortly to ensure continuity of service to the community. ”