Why Ending Homelessness in Los Angeles County and California Must Be a Priority

This piece originally began as a response via email to a fellow Los Angeles constituent who is opposed to the in play plan(s) to make the issue of ending homelessness in Los Angeles County and state of California, a priority. As a fellow Los Angeleno, my hope is to provide this data so we can all get on the same page.

Here are some facts to share about why addressing the issue of homelessness in California is a sound and fiscally responsible course of action, not to mention humane effort and priority that I am incredibly proud of as resident living in the state of California and the County of Los Angeles.

It is true, that I'm a huge advocate of our homeless, that I know that I am a rather super liberal person, HOWEVER I do think it would be incredibly ignorant to not state the obvious: California carries an unfair share of our homeless. So, California homelessness, and the state of Utah homelessness, for example, are simply not the same. Do I think it's AWESOME that the state of Utah just solved chronic homelessness? Yes I do. Do I think California could achieve something similar? ABSOLUTELY. But we have to get real too about the number of people entering this state at the same time too which I will talk about at the end of this piece.

So back to homelessness in the state of California; homelessness here is not going to be solved overnight because our numbers are among the highest in the nation. It's simply not a tangible possibility but neither is more of the same. We know past plans have not worked and at the same time, the current situation is atrocious and inhumane and we should figure out the number of people- we as a State and as a County -can successfully LIFT people out of homelessness.

Why? Because homelessness actually costs us WAY MORE long term than not un-clogging our hospitals which have become inundated with repeat cases that costs us way more long term even with the success of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, this fact, was affirmed in a 2014 University of North Carolina study. See the study here.

Taking care of our homeless in a hospital setting is unnecessary if we create alternatives and a sound plan. That's what the State and County plans are about - mitigating costs so that when people ask for their streets to be sealed for example, the answer will one day hopefully soon, be YES. There will be more money$ if we do the work now regarding homelessness.

Cailfornia also needs to come up with a humane public relations campaign of sorts specific to Los Angeles County. To review the data: Los Angeles County in 2015 had 44,359 homeless people. See page 12 of the 2015 Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority Report. http://documents.lahsa.org/Planning/homelesscount/2015/HC2015CommissionPresentation.pdf

That means Los Angeles County ALONE carries almost 8% of the nation's homeless. Los Angeles County ALONE has 44,859 out of those 578,424 people.

It's a terrible situation because first and foremost - it's visually PAINFUL & not representative of who we are as Los Angelenos. It is so HARD to see people living in such pain - I believe this level of homelessness can actually traumatize people who witness how degrading and inhumane it can be to see a homeless man for example, defecate on the street or pass out or be bleeding in public for example. Is that really who we are as Americans AND Californians? At the same time, we of course cannot criminalize homelessness. Who grows up and says this is how I want to live?

Second, it is also unfair that California, as a state, is forced to carry this high a number of homeless. In Los Angeles County for example, we simply do not have the space and that's even more true in small cities like Santa Monica which also gets inundated and has been incredibly pro-active in planning and finding humane ways to help as many people as the City can carry for years. At some point, cities satiate. Why is that considered unkind?

So that said, we start with the fact that we are not talking about numbers; these are human beings with the largest % of our impoverished, in fact are CHILDREN. We also have a ton of seniors suffering living in HORRENDOUS conditions and that are simply unacceptable and heartbreaking all at once.

To give you a national snap shot: In the United States, in 2014, we as a country had approximately 578,424 homeless people. Please see page 6 of The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR)
to Congress here: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/State_of_Homelessness_2015_FINAL_online.pdf

Together, let's take deep guttural breaths and agree that solving homelessness in the state of California and County of Los Angeles will take some patience to resolve. And I do think it is unfair that California as a state - of the 587,424 people that are homeless in the United States, we carry 113,952 please see page 15 of the 2015 State of Homelessness report provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/State_of_Homelessness_2015_FINAL_online.pdf

That's a little over 19%. Last time I looked there are 50 states in this country, five territories and the District of Columbia - which BTW if you look closer at the AHAR report you will see that DC is the region of the country where homelessness is growing at the fastest rate - higher than California. My point is this California should be receiving a lot more $ to solve this inhumane standard of living too. And I'm very sorry to share that President Reagan when he said that we would no longer house our folks that have mental health challenges, is absolutely responsible for part of this dilemma too. The data doesn't lie.

It is also reasonable for the State of California to set State CAPS on the number of homeless we can financially and tangibly lift out of homelessness in California while simultaneously and actively preventing gentrification. Why can't we have a Public Relations campaign that is transparent and explains this? What is wrong with being honest about how our state can best serve people? We also need to figure out ways to get more landlords to embrace Section 8 housing vouchers and commit to X% of affordable housing and then gentrification is resolved and addressed.

Another thought is to look at Cities like Vernon that must have jobs with all that industrialization not to mention the corruption of the Republican leadership there that was being paid exorbitant amount of money. It seems that with industry in place, could we not employ AND house people in Vernon that cannot find housing in Los Angeles County? Please see this LA Weekly Article for details: http://www.laweekly.com/news/the-corrupt-town-in-true-detective-is-based-on-vernon-and-vernon-couldnt-be-happier-5709057

And finally, ALL Veterans should largely be subsidized by our government. Let's have leadership agree to buy one or two less drones/military equipment and house every single homeless Veteran in housing that works for them. These costs should not fall so heavily on the shoulders of nonprofits. The costs should be built into our astronomical military budgets which is the largest percentage of the United States budget plan. It's just not enough money. WE KNOW THIS. If we can track our Veterans overseas, we sure should be able to do right by them once they are back in our country.

These affirmed numbers help demonstrate the vital importance of why homelessness in the State of California and in Los Angeles County must absolutely be front and center of our economic plans. Perhaps with sound investments, the savings we have with a strong plan to end homelessness can generate the funding we also need for streets and infrastructure. We also need to look at wage. If people are working 40 hours a week and cannot afford their rent in any City? That's a system flaw not a people flaw. Poverty is a lack of money not character. And turning a blind eye to the fact that wage has not kept up with cost of living is equally irresponsible and just pushing one's food around on a plate.

Overall - California should come up with a humane and thoughtful PR campaign that talks about the fact that we love to have you in California however, if you come here and you don't do the research and you don't have a job, there is chance you are going end up on the streets and have a pretty miserable and dangerous existence. I myself am thinking of ways to possibly leave the state if I don't obtain a job that covers my basic needs. It's just part of my reality and I have to figure it out. I don't know why that's a bad thing to talk about? Let's all embrace this data and the folks that are suffering and move this state and County forward. It can be done.

This piece is dedicated to Los Angeles County member Bill Rosendahl who passed away last week but saw early on the importance of helping our homeless and took individuals into his own home as he could. His efforts will be forever missed.

Tania Bradkin can be found at: @TaniaBradkin on Twitter, @TaniaBradkin on Instagram and at: https://www.facebook.com/tania.bradkin on Facebook.