The leader of a Los Angeles homeless agency announced her resignation Monday amid a dispute with the organization’s board over her efforts to increase the minimum pay level for staff.
The disagreements between Heidi Marston, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the agency’s politically-appointed Management Committee came to a head about two months after volunteers worked to count the county’s homeless population.
The annual “point in time” count, last conducted in 2020 due to the pandemic, reported that more than 66,000 people were experiencing homelessness in the nation’s most populous county. The figure represented a 13% increase from the previous year. The results of the 2022 count are not due for weeks.
At issue now is Marston’s decision to raise the salaries of nearly 200 of the agency’s lowest-paid employees — the vast majority of whom are people of color — in March 2021, according to resignation letter that was posted online by the Los Angeles Times.
Their salaries were as low as $33,119 annually, Marston wrote. She raised the minimum to $50,000 a year while also freezing the salaries for the agency’s 10 highest-paid employees.
“The employees of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority should not make so little that they qualify for homeless services themselves,” Marston wrote Monday in a Medium post online.
The Management Committee allegedly pushed back on the move, Marston wrote in her resignation letter.
“Since making this decision, I have been accused of undermining ‘management’s position’ in re-negotiating LAHSA’s new Union Contract,” she wrote.
LAHSA Commission Chair Jacqueline Waggoner, in a statement to KCBS-TV, said interim leadership will be appointed “in short order.”
“LAHSA’s priority is serving people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County,” the statement said. “We will ensure LAHSA staff continue to be fully supported as they carry out their essential day-to-day tasks to fulfill LAHSA’s mission.”
Marston began at the agency in an interim capacity in 2019. Her resignation will be effective May 27.