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DPSS History

DPSS is one of 36 County departments and serves over 10 million residents in a county larger in population than 42 states, encompassing 88 cities. DPSS is the second largest County department in Los Angeles County and the largest social service agency in the United States. DPSS has an annual budget of $5 billion and provides services to one out of every three residents in Los Angeles County. DPSS has a workforce of nearly 14,000 employees with the capacity to serve residents in 19 languages at more than 40 offices throughout Los Angeles County.

Our Story
Image of DPSS Metro East building.

Los Angeles County Social Services began their origin in the Office of Superintendent of Children's and Women's Work, formed in 1891, to care for destitute women and their children under the guidelines of the 1851 Poor Law.

Care was extended to the elderly with the County Government Act of 1893 by permitting California Counties to give Outdoor Relief to any pauper over 60.

The Department of Charities was formed in 1913 and included five Divisions:

County Hospital, County Farm, Outdoor Relief, Olive View Sanatorium, and Cemetery Divisions.

Interestingly, applicants for Outdoor Relief were so few in number that their budgets were reviewed by the County Board of Supervisors and included in their meeting's minutes.

"On motion of Supervisor Norton, duly recorded and carried, it is ordered that the Inspector of Charities be authorized to furnish J. T. Clark orders for meat and groceries to an amount not to exceed $10 per week, the aggregate amount of such said orders not to exceed the sum of $50.00."Source: Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Minutes, Volume 52, p. 129, February 2, 1915.

The proportion of the County population receiving public assistance during the Great Depression ranged from 19% to 24%. Today about 20% receive some form of public assistance.

The Division of Outdoor Relief was expanded and renamed in 1938, the Bureau of Indigent Relief, and in 1943 changed again to the Bureau of Public Assistance. In 1966, the Bureau of Public Assistance became the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS).

  • DPSS facilities were built from 1930s through 2009.
  • DPSS has occupied one facility for over 50 years.
  • Herbert Hoover was President when Metro East GROW was built in 1930,  over 90 years ago.
  • Dwight Eisenhower was President in 1955 when Bureau of Public Assistance, now DPSS, first occupied the former Cudahy district office over 65 years ago.