Los Angeles, CA

Combating Southern California’s Homeless Problem

Joel Eisenberg

The state maintains the highest percentage of unhoused individuals in the country, accounting for approximately one-fifth of the U.S. homeless population. Southern California holds the distinction as the region with the largest homeless rate.

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Downtown Los Angeles Homeless EncampmentLevi Meir Clancy, Unsplash

Author’s Note

Linked information within this article is attributed to the following outlets: The San Francisco Chronicle, World Population Review, The Hollywood Reporter, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, NBC News, and ManKindHomeless.com.

Introduction

Our national homelessness issue is complex, and not based on any singular reason. In the state of California, which according to WorldPopulationReview.com maintains the highest rate of homelessness in the country, the scourge shows no sign of abating.

As excerpted from the report: The state of California currently has the highest homeless population, with about 151,278 homeless people. This is about one-fifth of the total homeless population in the United States. This figure is attributed to issues with providing affordable and adequate housing opportunities, current drug laws, and the inaccessibility of important mental health resources.

To this list of attributions I would add another item, in this instance as it regards Southern California, specifically: those countless individuals — myself among them — who relocated here from out of state to earn a foothold in the entertainment business. The streets of Hollywood proper, as an example, are lined with hungry artists who simply cannot afford housing.

An archived November, 2019 issue of Hollywood Reporter touched upon this frequently ill-considered cause but primarily focused on a certain lack of apparent effort within the industry to help matters.

As excerpted from “Hollywood Mostly Silent as Silicon Valley Pledges Billions to California’s Housing Crisis”: “In October, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was the guest of honor at a gathering of about 80 people from the entertainment industry held at the Los Feliz home of Rich and husband Zev Foreman, of eOne. A city coroner’s office representative told attendees that, this year, twice as many people died on L.A. streets from homelessness as from homicide. “Blair and I are collaborating on how we reach into the industry,” says Ridley-Thomas, “and tell individuals that it’s not cool to drive past people who are down and out, unless we stop and lift them up. We have to awaken the spirit to accomplish that.”

As it regards our Northern neighbors, San Francisco and its surrounding environs have seen an unexpected decrease this year. From a May 16, 2022 report in the San Francisco Chronicle: The data shows the total number of unhoused residents in San Francisco at 7,754, down from the 8,035 homeless people counted in 2019 when the city saw a 17% spike.

For the purpose of this article, however, we will focus on Southern California and its related ills.

Let us explore further.

The State of Southern California Homelessness, 2022

For further perspective as it regards the state of California, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness breaks down the issue: As of January 2020, California had an estimated 161,548 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that Total, 8,030 were family households, 11,401 were Veterans, 12,172were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 51,785 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2018-2019 school year shows that an estimated 271,528 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 11,021 students were unsheltered, 19,758 were in shelters, 14,386 were inhotels/motels, and 226,363 were doubled up.

When you compare the total figures to the updated numbers in the linked WorldPopulationReview.com site above, a small degree of improvement appears to have occurred in the following year. Clearly, though, those improvements have not gone far enough.

In January of this year, NBC News featured a report about the criminalization of homelessness, which predictably caused an uproar: Residents of Skid Row have long languished amid squalor and neglect as city officials grapple with housing the thousands of people experiencing homelessness. The crisis has only deepened over the years, moving beyond the borders of Skid Row and into gentrifying or affluent neighborhoods where tents clog sidewalks and unhoused people seek refuge in their cars... “The policy of criminalizing homelessness has never worked,” said Georgia Berkovich, director of public affairs at The Midnight Mission, which offers emergency and social services to homeless people. “We need more beds. We need more housing.”

On a more optimistic note, organizations such as The Man/Kind Initiative are devoted to fighting homelessness. Though LA-based, their mission has no boundaries: There are over a half-million homeless people in the United States. In our cities, we see them every day - sleeping in doorways, littering our streets by living in dilapidated and dirty tents. As a society we need to provide the social net that catches those who cannot function as we do. The Man/Kind Initiative is in the streets where they live - delivering food and providing mobile shelters called EDARs - for Everyone Deserves A Roof.

Visit their website for further information.

Conclusion

Writers here on NewsBreak and elsewhere are calling attention to the matter, and officials in Southern California (and elsewhere) are speaking a good game to little results.

What can we do? Simple displacement does not serve as a “cure” for homelessness, and though far too many local residents dismiss the collective of our homeless population as simply “drug addicted individuals who should be jailed,” or “people too lazy to find a job,” neither are at all true.

This continues to be an issue for both sides. What should we do? What can we do to help?

Please feel free to answer in the comments section.

In the meantime, thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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