THE DOCTOR IS IN - Those who've profiteered off our homelessness crisis (and it IS a crisis) and the related affordable housing crisis have created a NEW crisis: the Homelessness Industry Crisis.
Anyone who's paid attention in either the arena of their own Neighborhood Council, or that of the L.A. City Council, or maybe just reading CityWatch, know that we need to help those who are homeless or are at risk of being evicted, but:
1) ...the more we do, the worse things get with respect to the prevalence of the homeless we see all about us, and the worsening cost of rent to live in the City of the Angels.
2) ...the more we spend, the more the grift and skullduggery behind overdevelopment, false claims to "create more affordable housing", and the wildly inappropriate cost of building apartments to get homeless off the streets.
But if we decry the horrible spending we're told WE are the problem, with us ignoring and/or turning a blind eye or deaf ear to the plight of the unfortunate among us.
And usually we're told that terrible lie (and it IS a lie, because we DO care) by those who stand to profit politically or even financially from this new "cottage industry" who really don't want to FIX the problem.
Getting the homeless off the streets "for reals"?
1) That means appropriate reimbursement, and appropriate profitability, to various motels and inns who stand to actually get their rooms filled with homeless families (focus on the families with children first!), admixed with lower-scale renters, and which are monitored (and I mean POLICE-monitored and MENTAL HEALTH-monitored supervision).
Eminent domain, in a pinch.
We really don't do that--instead we do all sorts of programs that reward those who choose to live on the street and outside the law, and don't resolve the miserable plight of those who desire to live no longer in their cars. Any attempts to work with motels and inns are too often laced with lousy results and insider connections to City Hall.
Arguably that might mean a primary focus on those with children who want OUT of their cars as a place to live, and who want IN to job training and employment/hiring services.
2) Enforce vagrancy laws. They're there for a reason, and yet we've gotten so used to squatters on our sidewalks and other public venues that we've grown weary of trying to enforce laws that even mega-liberal-to-the-point-of-irrationality judges are OK with.
Some folks DO want help, and some folks are even reticent to get help because they're used to the open skies and their more modern tents and trailers...yet want to get back to the life they once had ten or more years ago when getting a roof over one's head was more achievable.
Some folks also have psychiatric and/or drug use problems that need coaching and encouragement...they need kindness and patience and compassion.
But we all have to obey the law--painful as it is, we've GOT places (even open places) to go to for those who need shelter and safety, and hence the need to enforce vagrancy laws when they apply.
That's true even when Councilmembers and other "castle in the sky" politicians don't want them enforced, and they force the police to stand down and not do their jobs to protect us all.
3) Demand open sidewalks and clear the parks of those who have no business living there. We've all paid for these sidewalks and parks, and ditto for libraries and rivers that are publicly-owned.
We've legally established places for those who want OFF of the streets to go to (although the quasi-related affordable housing problem remains unabated). Do we WANT a quality of life for both the housed and the unhoused? Do we want the quality of life for tenants to be protected?
Enter Proposition ULA, which in other circumstances might make sense. 4% taxes on the sale or transfer of properties valued over $5 million, and 5.5% taxes on those valued over $10 million.
Sounds great, right?
Except that every darned time we taxed either ourselves or "someone else" the money got spent to EXPLOIT the problem and not FIX the problem.
Do we have resources to fix the problem?
Have we spent MORE over the past decade on our homeless problem, and to address the affordable housing problem?
Do we have public and private services and entities willing and able to do more if legally given the opportunity to do so?
Do we have financial INCENTIVES to make ENOUGH cheaper housing (heck...even "small house" or cobbled-together trailer park programs) for the homeless, and safe places for those tenants booted out of their apartments?
Do we have the political will to FIX the problem, instead of just creating more public sector positions to employ connected individuals and contractors to EXPLOIT the problem?
Will Proposition ULA therefore make our homeless/tenant-related problems better?
Horribly, inexcusably, NO.
We HAD a state surplus, and our City and County HAVE their own funds and the ability to do more to defend the less fortunate among us.
But creating more public sector jobs and rewarding/feeding connected developers with more taxes from ANY source, even from the RICH?
No, that'll just feed the beast. The Homeless Industry Beast. The Profit-Only-In-Making-Homeless/Tenant Matters-Worse Beast.
So unless you want MORE unfixed homelessness, and FEWER tenant protections, we have to vote NO on Proposition ULA. The $600 million to $1.1 billion raised by Prop. ULA will only be used against us all, and not for us.
Because a NO vote means we want the City Council of Los Angeles to DO THEIR JOBS and find the political will to grow a spine, to allow the police to do their jobs, and to require us all (including the homeless) to be adults.
A NO vote reminds the City Council that they can oversee and enforce tenant laws that prevent paying middle-class tenants from being thrown out of their apartments by those jacking up their rates (or converting to condos) to prioritize the wealthy.
A NO vote reminds the City Council that we've already spent plenty on laws and services available to FIX the problem, if only we had the guts and brains to do the things that require NO money.
Actions very often don't cost money...but they do demand courage and strength of will.
This is one of those times we need ACTION, not just MORE MONEY to make matters WORSE.
Vote NO on Proposition ULA.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband to a wonderful wife and father to two cherished children. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 9, years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees for 10 years. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition His latest project is his fictional online book entitled The Unforgotten Tales of Middle-Earth and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)