Employees with the Los Angeles Homeless Services were caught on camera throwing food meant for the unhoused straight into the dumpster.
“It’s a theft of taxpayer dollars,” said Jay Handal, Chair of The Homeless Committee for the L.A. Neighborhood Councils. “These people are being paid to go out and service and take care of people so not only are they stealing their pay but they’re throwing away good, valuable food for people who have nothing to eat.”
With hidden cameras, CBSLA’s investigative team caught employees with LAHSA throwing cases of taxpayer-funded food meant for the homeless right into the dumpster.
“It’s appalling what I see on that video,” said Handal. “This is an absolute disgrace.”
For months, the investigative team watched outreach workers with LAHSA picking up food for the less fortunate. The employees were supposed to spend their days interacting with the thousands of homeless in Los Angeles. LAHSA administrators said the goal was to build trust with the unhoused, using the food in hopes of convincing them to accept government service and housing.
One team that CBSLA followed could be seen picking up the homeless food, driving around for hours, stopping twice to give out meals before going on a break to walk around Balboa Park for an hour.
However, at the end of their shift, they were seen giving away all the food at a homeless encampment in Panorama City, folding up the empty boxes the food was once in.
But another team was seen driving and making stops at Target, Starbucks and McDonald’s all while passing dozens of homeless people along the way. When they finally returned to their office, instead of folding up empty boxes, one LAHSA employee was seen throwing a case full of food in the dumpster behind their Panorama City building.
Another team was seen taking the boxes out of their car, walking into the room with the dumpsters and throwing a box filled with food right in the trash, even though there was a group of people living on the streets just a block away.
LAHSA — which received $800 million in public funds this fiscal year — did not provide anyone to speak with the investigative team but did write a statement which said in part:
“There are cases where teams have to bring food back to their headquarters because not all of the people they encounter will accept them.”
LAHSA claims they give excess meals to shelters, but admit they discard meals because the meals are perishable. However, while the food was perishable, outreach teams were seen putting boxes in cars and driving around for hours without any refrigeration.
“You know I think LAHSA owes an explanation,” said L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a critic of LAHSA who says she does not believe the organization’s explanation.
“When you look at what’s in there — an apple — that’ll be good the next day,” she said. “Who throws a cookie away? Right there that pisses me off.”
Andy Bales, the head of Union Rescue Mission, which serves 2000 meals every day to their homeless guests, was heartbroken when he saw the video of LAHSA employees dumping food.
“People are hungry, out on the streets and need to be fed and none of us should be wasting any food,” said Bales.
The mission also said LAHSA never offered excess food to them.
The county has already begun the process of breaking up LAHSA and starting a new agency that would tackle the homelessness crisis.