Like many Southern Californians, I am horrified and saddened by the burgeoning number of individuals who are homeless in our community. According to the Los Angeles Times, the number has grown to 60,000 a 23% increase over last year.
Last week I attended a program organized by Social Venture Partners Los Angeles--the first in a series on Community–led Solutions to Homeless--to find out. The excellent presentation, featured Mark Loranger, President and CEO of Chrysalis; Joon Bang, Executive Director of the Korean American Coalition LA; and Ann English, Manager of the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s SpeakUp! Advocates Program.
The increase in homelessness is due mainly to these factors:
- Lack of an adequate support system for those who are vulnerable, particularly individuals transitioning out of foster care, the criminal justice system, and the military.
- Instability due to job loss, poor physical and mental health, substance addiction, and domestic violence.
- Flat wages.
- Lack of affordable housing.
- High end residential developments in previously working class neighborhoods.
The homeless who are visible on streets, underpasses, and parks represent approximately 10% of the total homeless population; 90% are living day-to-day in temporary housing.
It costs much less to house a homeless person than it does to incarcerate him/her.
- In 2016 voters overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to build approximately 10,000 units of supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles to provide housing for the homeless. In addition, voters passed Measure H, which funds a range of supportive services.
- Each member of the Los Angeles City Council has pledged to support a minimum of at least 222 units of supportive housing in his or her district before July 1, 2020.
- City Council members and advocates of supportive housing are experiencing strong resistance from community members who don’t want supportive housing to be built in their neighborhoods. Read Joon Bang's op-ed in the LA Times on the need for a shelter in Koreatown and some local resistance to providing such housing in the neighborhood.
- This resistance is largely predicated on a misunderstanding of what supportive housing looks like, the kinds of people who find themselves homeless, and the benefits that such housing would bring to neighborhoods. The photo on this page of the Skid Row Housing Trust's Star Apartments, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, belies the popular perception that affordable housing is an eyesore.
What can you do?
The "Yes in My LA" pamplet by the League of Women's Voters LA explains why supportive housing enhances the quality of life of all and how you can be part of the solution.