LAHSA Director Heidi Marston Fired Kristy Lovich In July 2020 For Advocating That LAHSA Cut Ties With Law Enforcement — For The Simple Reason That Cop Involvement Makes Effective Outreach Impossible — As Her Comms Staff Struggled To Concoct A Response To The Subsequent Outcry Marston Told Them Not To Say Explicitly That The Response Was About Lovich — And To Rewrite Their Messaging “To Infuse A Tone Of Compassion” — You Can Read The Actual Comments She Inserted In The Document!

This post is based on a few items from a small set of emails that LAHSA produced to me recently. There’s other interesting stuff in there, so take a look at the whole set!

In June 2020 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority staffer Kristy Lovich started a petition calling on her employer to sever ties with law enforcement agencies. On July 28, 2020 LAHSA Director Heidi Marston fired her in retaliation,1 which prompted swift and brutal criticism on social media and a powerful public response from Lovich the next day, July 29. And very soon thereafter Marston’s publicity machine started revving its powerful engines! I don’t yet have the full story,2 but on July 30 Marston emailed her communications staff and thanked them for their work:

From: Heidi Marston <hmarston@lahsa.org>
To: Christopher Yee <cyee@lahsa.org>, Nadia James <njames@lahsa.org>, Ahmad Chapman <achapman@lahsa.org>, Paloma Beltroy <pbeltroy@lahsa.org>
Subject: Letter response for social

Hi all,

Thanks for pulling this together. My comments are attached but overall, I like the google doc and the messaging in that the best. Also love the call to action in asking municipalities to commit to our principles. The more we can center on compassion and humanizing this, the better.

Here’s a copy of the Google doc she’s talking about, but it’s the usual nonsense and not at all interesting.3 What is interesting is the attachment, which is a Word doc sent to her by the PR folks and commented on by Marston. Here’s the original Word doc and here’s a PDF I made in case the comments aren’t visible to you in the Word doc. Thus spake the PR kids:

We were hoping to use this as of yet unpublished blog post to help both with addressing our relationship with law enforcement and, now, in response to Kristy’s letter. I’ve edited it, and we’ll publish it if it gets your approval:

The unpublished blog post they’re talking about is Marston’s Google doc, the one she likes best. But Marston’s comment is what matters here. It’s pinned to the phrase “Kristy’s letter” and says, simply, “Of course this isn’t something we will say explicitly”, that it’s in response to the letter, that is. And isn’t that curious? Marston wants LAHSA to respond to Lovich’s letter but she doesn’t want to be seen as wanting to respond. Super classy!

And then the PR flunkies want to explain to the world of social media that they actually don’t like cops either:

Municipal practices that disrupt and displace people can create additional barriers that trap people in homelessness and compound to further their criminalization. Relationships built with outreach workers and other case managers can dissolve and critical steps taken to securing housing may be lost.

But this language is too cold for Marston, or something. Maybe it’s not relentlessly rockstar enough for her. But most of all, says Marston, “I don’t love this. Can we make it sound more plain language? I think it’s important to infuse a tone of compassion here.” And this ultimately explains exactly why Marston fired Lovich. For being compassionate rather than infusing a tone of compassion in her work.

Those are the two consequential comments, but the third comment is also interesting. Marston said “I like the google doc and the messaging in that the best.” And the Google doc said:

Three Principles:
We are asking that the following principles be adopted by all entities throughout Los Angeles County to ensure that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are afforded safer, more accessible places for themselves and their belongings.

And then goes on for over two pages about what these three principles are. The discussion of these three principles is pretty much what that Google doc thing is about. The Google doc thing that Marston likes the best. So when the PR kids said this to Marston in the thing she’s commenting on:

We are asking that these three principles be adopted by all entities throughout Los Angeles County to ensure that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are afforded safer, more accessible places for themselves and their belongings

Well, Marston’s last comment is about this bit, and it says: “What 3 principles? I think this is good to add a call to action”. So it looks like the Google doc, the one she likes the best, it looks like she didn’t actually read it. Or if she did, remember any of it given that basically all it’s about is the three principles. Which seems like a heck of a way to run an agency the size of LAHSA, liking the unread material better than the read, but what do I know about it? Anyway, that’s the story!

  1. The entire basis of my claim that Marston fired Lovich in retaliation is the documents and records published in conjunction with this blog post and linked to therefrom. I have no information about the event other than what I discuss here in this post. That information is sufficient for me to have formed my opinion on this matter. In case you were wondering!
  2. Because LAHSA messed up the search for responsive emails and now they’re doing it over again. It took them six weeks for the first round. We’ll see what happens here.
  3. Although the fact that Marston likes it best is exceedingly interesting, for reasons to be revealed below!
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