“You can spend the money on new housing for poor people and the homeless, or you can spend it on a football stadium or a golf course.”
– Jello Biafra
Local authorities in Los Angeles have officially declared a war on homelessness. With an estimated, 25,000 residents (and counting) without homes, $100 million has been pledged to combating the rising homeless epidemic. In some cases, entire downtown LA streets are lined with tents and makeshift shelters, the only refuge available for thousands of men, women, and children.
Over the past two years, the issue of homelessness has become what can only be described as a crisis. People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), a Los Angeles based organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness in the metropolitan area, offers a wide range of services including interim housing, rapid re-housing, and rehabilitation.
As many know, homelessness is extremely visible in the downtown neighborhood, Skid Row. Recent statistics indicate that Skid Row contains one the of the largest homeless populations in the United States. Even police have become so accustomed to the saturation of homelessness that they avoid clearing Skid Row streets for cleaning and instead, simply monitor the area for crime or disruption.
Although many downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods face homelessness, the crisis extends much farther than city limits. Even neighborhoods near Los Angeles International Airport have homeless individuals who reside in campers and recreational vehicles. Although some homeless people have the ability to use parked vehicles as a means for water, food, and shelter, many aren’t as fortunate.
The Los Angeles Mission is another organization that provides shelter, meals, and rehabilitation to those in need. Also serving as a job training resource, the Los Angeles Mission believes that homelessness stems from both economic and social pressures. Not only do new residents, transplanting from other regions of the United States make it difficult to find job and housing for low income people, but even after an ex-homeless individual is rehabilitated, they face continued scrutiny with background checks, credit checks, and criminal history checks – all obstacles that may prevent them from finding a steady job or paying bills.
Local officials are calling for more emergency shelters, however, organizations like PATH and the Los Angeles Mission advocate for more affordable housing and long-term help instead. Chrysalis, a social service agency, offers computer access, counseling and even interview attire for those heading to job interviews.
The problems of homelessness can be addressed if the community can stand together and actually make a change. Those living on the streets hope that the city’s declaration of war will actually make a difference.