Ma’Lissa’s Story - L.A. Care’s Commitment to Housing for the Homeless

Life has packed a lot of hardship into Ma’ Lissa Simon’s 23 years.

Bullied by schoolmates and siblings about her weight, anger drove her into gangs, drugs, and even prostitution before the age of 18. She had been in and out of detention from the age of 13, but at 18 she was convicted of robbery and assault and went to prison for two-and-a-half years.

When she got out, transitional programs just didn’t work and she ended up on the streets, back on drugs. She says, “When you’re high, you don’t care where you live… in a car, under a staircase, on a friend’s couch for a few days.” It wasn’t until she was six months pregnant with twins, in the hospital for gestational diabetes, kidney problems and more that things started to change. She says, “When I felt my babies move inside me, I knew I didn’t want to go back to that life.” It was in the hospital that she also learned about L.A. County’s Housing for Health, a program designed to improve health outcomes by getting people off the streets and into permanent housing.

L.A. Care Health Plan has committed $20 million to Brilliant Corners, an agency that finds housing for people who qualify for the Housing for Health program. It’s a five-year plan to house 300 people, many of them L.A. Care members. Ma’ Lissa was among the first L.A. Care members to qualify for the program since last year’s commitment, and last month, she moved into an apartment with her three-month-old twins. Ma’Lissa says, “It feels good. I have been through so much. I am so grateful. I’m happy. I’m smiling, but mostly, I’m grateful.”

Homelessness is a huge problem in L.A. County, and it’s critical that all stakeholders come together to tackle this problem. We know that a person’s health and well-being starts with stable housing, so we’re committed to working closely with Brilliant Corners and the county Department of Health Services to assist the homeless population.” The Rand Corporation confirmed that late last year with a study that found there were fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays, and health care costs dropped nearly 60 percent for those in the program.

--John Baackes
CEO, L.A. Care