THE CITY--Homelessness in LA has run rampant. The blight has moved way beyond Skid Row to neighborhoods in every council district, affecting the quality of life for hard-working, tax-paying Angelenos in a sad and profound way.
I moved to LA from Chicago in 2013 for the amazing SoCal lifestyle, and the decline I have witnessed here in such a short period of time is mind boggling. There’s widespread discontent with the way state and local governments are dealing with the homeless crisis, yet no one holds our elected officials accountable.
I don’t have a background in public policy, but I do belong to an organization that encourages women to know the facts, go deeper, and explore the policy issues that affect us all. It’s called “The Policy Circle,” and it’s inspired me to educate myself and read beyond the headlines.
The Policy Circle is an organization that produces non-partisan briefs on policy issues that foster discussions in neighborhood “Circle Meetings.” These “book club”-type meetings get women thinking and talking and, in many cases, taking action. Once I joined, I started to pay closer attention to the nuances of local government policies—particularly the policies that have led to our current homeless crisis.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, California is home to just 12 percent of the U.S. population, but nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless. Our neighborhoods increasingly feel unsafe. Tent cities (“encampments!”) are everywhere, producing mountains of trash and human waste that put police officers, workers, and our friends and neighbors at risk.
This is certainly not a funding issue. In 2016, voters in Los Angeles passed a $1.2 billion bond measure to fight homelessness. The results of this investment? One apartment building in Koreatown area where 72 apartments will be available for homeless and low-income seniors. The price? $690,692 per unit—nearly $70,000 more than the median home price in Los Angeles County! As for the rest of L.A.’s estimated 30,000 homeless, I guess they’ll have to keep waiting.
In Venice, a new shelter is scheduled to open next year for the estimated 1,000 people there who live on the streets. The shelter will only have 150 beds for those 1,000 people. The cost of this Band Aid? Sixteen million dollars, not including operating costs or the value of the property being sold. This is not simply a housing issue! When you see people yelling at themselves, it’s a mental health issue, and when human waste makes its way into the ocean, it’s an environmental issue!
Here’s my call to action for those who share my frustration: Get involved. Attend a Neighborhood Council meeting. Contact your City Council member. Stand up for what you believe in. Demand better solutions and a better use of our tax dollars. Don’t let political correctness make you afraid to speak up. Don’t take no for an answer.
(The Policy Circle was a foundational start to my effort to become a more responsible citizen and to initiate conversations with my friends, neighbors and colleagues. As women concerned about our future, we must intelligently discuss these issues, brainstorm solutions, and bring our united voices forward to make our communities places we’re proud to call home.)