The City of Los Angeles has declared a war on homelessness. Seven City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti held a press conference on September 22, 2015 during which they declared a “state of emergency” and announced they will commit up to $100 million in the coming years to help the homeless in Los Angeles.
This announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that the city’s homeless population has grown 12% since 2013 and has spread far beyond Skid Row in downtown LA. Much of the problem is due to the current lack of affordable housing and emergency shelters in the city.
Some commentators also believe that the new effort is at least partially due to the fact that the city has bid to host a future Olympics and city leaders want to reduce the visible signs of homelessness.
The First $13 Million will be Spent in Coming Months
The first step city leaders plan to take to help the homeless in Los Angeles is to spend $13 million over the next few months to provide housing and services to people who are currently living on the streets. Part of that money will go to provide more vouchers and affordable housing and the remainder will be used to help homeless shelters extend their hours, especially during the winter months.
How Did the L.A. Homeless Situation Get So Bad?
Mayor Garcetti pointed out in his speech that homelessness is an issue that has been passed back and forth between the city and the county for years, even leading to the two entities getting into a lawsuit over it a few years ago. City Councilman Mike Bonin said that it is a “collective failure of every level of government to deal with what has been a homeless crisis for generations and is exploding and exacerbating now.”
What is Life Like for the Homeless in Los Angeles?
L.A. has one of the largest unsheltered populations in the country. There are currently approximately 26,000 people living on the streets, in tent encampments, or in their cars in L.A. The number of tent camps and vehicles that are occupied by the homeless have increase approximately 85 percent in just the past two years.
Until recently, the police were actively trying to crack down on the encampments, some of which are on the lawns and streets near City Hall. However, it has become obvious that this has only served to move people around, without solving the problem.
What Are The Long-Term Goals for Helping the Homeless?
There are a number of goals that the city leaders have expressed for dealing with the problem. The primary efforts will be to:
- Expand their system for tracking the homeless;
- Provide more centers where street dwellers can store their belongings and access social services;
- Step up anti-poverty measures (such as the recent increase in the minimum wage) so low-income people can afford to pay their rent or mortgages and not end up homeless;
- Find appropriate living situations for the mentally ill;
- Move more alcoholics and drug addicts into treatment and sober living facilities;
- Provide housing subsidies and vouchers to make rent more affordable;
- Expand job training programs to help people find employment;
- Keep the city’s winter shelters open two months longer, especially this year when heavy rains are anticipated;
- Install lights and hire guards for city and church parking lots, where people would be able to sleep in their cars or RVs;
- Designate certain city owned swimming pools as places where the homeless can get showers;
- Ease regulations to speed up the construction of low-income housing projects;
How Will Los Angeles Come Up with $100 Million?
There are many questions about where the city will find the money to deal with the homeless in Los Angeles. Some of the money could come from the city’s emergency fund, which is one reason this situation was declared a state of emergency. Additional funding could come from homelessness programs supported by the county, state and federal governments.
Many residents of Los Angeles welcome this new initiative for dealing with homelessness and hope that it is not mere words … that they will see real action, soon.
CBS News Radio Station 1070 in Los Angeles on 9/23/15
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