From the July-August 2019 issue of News & Letters
Los Angeles—On May 4, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors released the latest estimated homeless count of 59,000, a 12% increase from 52,800 in 2018. The Los Angeles homeless population increased from 31,300 to 36,000, a 16% increase. As the numbers were announced, activists from “Services Not Sweeps” shouted out, “That’s an undercount” and “Shame on You!” Homelessness includes encampments and people sleeping in their cars and RVs, in shelters, and in parks or on sidewalks.
UNEMPLOYMENT = HOMELESSNESS
A major reason for the growth of homelessness is unemployment caused by automation. Machines, computers and robots are replacing human workers. Wages have remained stagnant, while rents have soared as affordable rent areas have gentrified. More than half the people in L.A. County pay 50-80% of their income on rent. The 1990 Costa-Hawkins bill prohibits California cities and counties from passing rent control legislation.
In South Park, one block west of Skid Row, a new 28-story hotel/retail space is in the application process. When high-rent tenants and accompanying businesses move in, they bring their anti-homeless NIMBY attitudes.
Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), in Skid Row, has been resisting the LAPD’s sweeps, harassment, criminalization, and murder of the homeless population with street protests, lawsuits, and a know-your-rights campaign. They also inform low-rent tenants of their rights against unlawful evictions, and they fight for restrooms, water fountains, showers, laundry facilities, and trash cans in the neighborhood. Landlords and the media often blame the homeless for unsanitary conditions created by city negligence.
In 2016 and 2017, county voters passed two ballot measures to fund $500 million in homeless services and $1.2 billion to build 10,000 permanent supportive housing units (PSH). Two years later, after two-thirds of the money has been allocated and no PSH built, LACAN’s demand for an audit has been ignored for the last six months.
The growing homeless crisis has resulted in experimental tiny houses and conversion of shipping containers into housing to reduce costs. Officials in city, county, state and federal government have been negligent for years in funding housing for the homeless as well as very low rent and affordable housing.