The spotlight is on Los Angeles County- the capital of homelessness in the United States. As volunteers hit the streets and counted the growing homeless population, Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged the problem has only intensified. This comes a year after the 23% increase in homelessness for the City of Angels.
A lack of affordable housing, plus rising rents, are the main culprits for this influx of people being pushed from their apartments and into their cars or the streets. Los Angeles is hoping to get a handle on how to help those being pushed to the margins of society.
There is where we find hope. Passed in 2017, Measure H will generate 3.5 billion dollars throughout the span of ten years to fund affordable housing projects, access to mental healthcare, and help for the unemployed.
I wish I could say this was the only West Coast city struggling with a surge in homelessness.
From the Associated Press:
Official counts taken earlier this year in California, Oregon and Washington show 168,000 homeless people in the three states. That is 19,000 more than were counted two years ago. During the same period, the number of unsheltered people in the three states - defined as someone sleeping outside, in a bus or train station, abandoned building or vehicle - has climbed 18 percent to 105,000.
Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien sums up what cities across the warmer coast of the country are faced with: “I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing. There’s nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up.”
The West Coast is facing a humanitarian crisis. What it means to be homeless has changed. How Los Angeles spends the money generated from Measure H will be crucial to combatting this epidemic, even though we’ve seen money thrown at problems before. That’s where empathy and understanding for each other come into play. This social emotion can’ solve it all, but since this is a problem affecting people, it’s a good place to start.