Los Angeles, CA—In case you missed it June 5, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Commission unanimously selected Heidi Marston to the position of Executive Director.
“Heidi Marston is the exact person we want to reform an entrenched system—she’s brave, energetic and unflappable. She has a commanding mastery of the details of how a bold homeless services system should work,” said Sarah Dusseault, LAHSA Commission Chair. “She came to LAHSA for a challenge and relentlessly led our unprecedented COVID-19 response—housing thousands of seniors in weeks. She will continue the momentum of systemic change and racial justice. I’m proud to announce that her leadership of this organization will continue.”
Marston’s appointment concludes a nationwide search for the next leader of the organization, a joint powers authority whose governing commission is appointed by both City and County elected leaders.
“We have made incredible progress toward housing and programs to help our homeless neighbors, and this public health crisis has shown us what we can accomplish when we act urgently together,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Heidi Marston’s leadership has helped us save lives, and I know she is the right person to lead LAHSA forward.”
"Ms. Marston has taken on the task of mounting and executing an emergency response for our County's vulnerable homeless population during the extraordinarily challenging times brought on by COVID-19,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “She has shown incredible leadership and collaboration, and helped to get an unprecedented number of high-risk individuals off the street and into safe shelter. Ms. Marston will be a great partner to the County and our many stakeholders as we move toward recovery and beyond."
Marston has served as LAHSA’s Acting Executive Director since December 2019. She came to LAHSA as Chief Program Officer in February 2019 after serving at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in several roles, including Director of Community Engagement and Reintegration Services and Special Assistant to the VA Secretary under President Obama.
At the VA, her accomplishments included the redesign and administration of Los Angeles’ veteran homeless services system, a program with 600 employees, double the size of most other comparable VA programs. She demonstrated expertise in government administration and the ability to drive collaboration and results.
In her 16 months at LAHSA, Marston presided over the adoption of a new strategic plan that is currently realigning LAHSA within a broadly reconfigured homeless services system focused on outreach and rehousing, and working in clearly defined partnerships on the roles of prevention and housing creation. Marston developed LAHSA’s Housing Central Command which physically co-locates cooperating departments in order to provide real-time visibility into the rehousing system’s inventory—allowing LAHSA to dramatically increase its ability to move people experiencing homelessness into housing.
“Homelessness in Los Angeles County is a crisis every day,” Marston said. “We have to respond to it with daily urgency while we redesign this institution to be strong and flexible enough to deliver that response at the scale of need. We need world-class data systems, we need strategies and actions rooted in racial equity, we need constant flexibility in our approach and renewal of our partnerships, and we need to do it all while keeping in our hearts the humanity and vulnerability of every person we serve. I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue leading LAHSA’s dedicated and talented staff on this mission.”
Marston has also led the response to the pandemic, working with multiple agencies and partners in order to coordinate the rapid expansion of the shelter system, the temporary housing of vulnerable people in hotel rooms through Project Roomkey, and sustained outreach and aid to people living on the street.
“Over the past few months, Ms. Marston has demonstrated that she has what it takes to lead LAHSA,” LAHSA Commissioner Jacqueline Waggoner said. “Under her leadership, LAHSA is on the right path. I look forward to working with Ms. Marston and in continued partnership with the LAHSA team to take meaningful measures to use data and the voices of the people we serve to advance racial equity. Together, we will achieve higher accountability across the system, starting with the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness.”
“During this pivotal time, the Los Angeles Homeless Services System needs transformative leadership to ensure that programs and interventions are culturally relevant and truly responsive to the growing needs of people experiencing homelessness,” said Veronica Lewis, director of Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (SSG-HOPICS). “We look forward to working alongside Heidi as the new Executive Director of LAHSA to continue to improve and strengthen policies and program design to effectively prioritize limited resources, have a system that is client-centered, develop thoughtful strategies to get people off the street quickly, and have meaningful coordination and shared accountability with other County and City Departments to address this issue. ”
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR THE SELECTION OF HEIDI MARSTON
Mitch Kamin, LAHSA Commissioner, Vice-Chair:
“Heidi Marston’s work in the past year has demonstrated that, in the words of Robert F. Kennedy, she ‘dreams of things that never were and asks why not.’ She has transformed our approach to placing people in homes with Housing Central Command, clarified and elevated LAHSA’s role in the broader homeless services system, and taken on the coronavirus. I’m excited for her leadership.”
Wendy Greuel, LAHSA Commissioner:
“There is no more important time to have a leader who is dedicated, passionate and understands the complexity of addressing homelessness. Heidi stepped up to the plate during a crisis and demonstrated she has what it takes to lead this organization in challenging times. We will be in good hands with Heidi Marston.”