After a recent trip to Downtown Los Angeles, I came face to face with a crisis that I had been hearing grumblings of for a few months prior. Coming from Torrance, a south bay city about 20 south of Los Angeles, I was blissfully unaware of the severity of the homeless crisis taking place in LA and the surrounding cities. As I pulled up to my downtown destination, which I did not realize was in the heart of skid row, I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear and my flight reflex took over. As I drove past the endless rows of tents, makeshift tarp shelters and shopping carts I felt sad and helpless. The sadness quickly turned to panic as the homeless community started walking out in the street and approaching my vehicle. It took me no time at all to make the decision to abort my errand and get back home as quickly as possible. The brief experience left me feeling appalled at the state of affairs in the city I grew up in and love, as well as ashamed that I was so quick to judge these members of my community. I felt compelled to do some research and find out what, if anything, was being done to combat the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.
After doing some research, I discovered article after article about the crisis and differing opinions on what exactly needs to be done to combat this epidemic. I was pleased to confirm that Mayor Eric Garcetti had recently “directed a record $430 million of the city budget this year to tackle homelessness, including allocating $20 million to City Council districts to build emergency shelters within a six-month window.” He has been vocal about his dedication to housing the city’s homeless population, and “aims to get half of the more than 25,000 unsheltered homeless population into shelters or housing by 2022, his last year as mayor.” However, a major issue still remains because the homeless population is growing at a faster rate than we are able to put up shelters and affordable housing. This is due to a variety of factors, such as rapidly rising rent, the opioid epidemic and more lenient imprisonment laws. Issues like these are directly affecting the homeless community, and while they need to be acknowledged and fixed, we have to start somewhere. Building a more expansive shelter system to help transition some of this population back onto their feet is a starting point.
While there are many other issues to combat and that need our attention in Los Angeles, it is clear that ignoring the homeless crisis and shuffling them from one neighborhood underpass to another has not been effective. Los Angeles seems to want to get to the root of the issue and lend a hand to our fellow neighbor.