Los Angeles is a place where young souls forge their dreams.
Think of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and many other places in the City that are world known and renowned. Think of the music and movies. Think about technology and the military.
I only knew Los Angels through the lens of movies and sunshine-bathed movies featuring surfing dudes with gold hair and chiselled bodies.
I was in for a surprise when I first moved to Sycamore street in Hollywood. The hiring agent was against sending me to Los Angeles. But I relentlessly insisted until I actually moved to the City.
The sense of brutal reality settled in as soon as I arrived at the doorstep of my Airbnb in Central Hollywood. The place was a fantastic idea, but nothing more. The house sits right below the famous Sunset Strip, close to another famous street, La Brea. Hollywood Blvd was just a block away, less than 5 minutes on foot. Perfect location? Well.
I thought I was moving into the epicentre of it all. The world's cameras were all facing this little valley under-mount Hollywood and California's sun.
So what was the big surprise?
Homeless. The pure human misery lived on the streets of every block in central Hollywood. Mentally ill people with nobody to take care of them walked the streets like zombies, alienated from society.
During my first week on Sycamore, one man crunched over and defecated in his hand. He then smeared the contents all over his face. I just woke up. And thinking about getting to work on time, not about dodging disturbing events before the first cup of coffee.
But it was too late. You can't unsee these things. Then, another guy in was juggling invisible balls and screaming at the hot air in Burger King on La Brea. I just wanted to finish my meal in peace. What a day!? I quickly grew used to all of it. By the time I witnessed a homeless man trying to rob a bus close to Skid Row, I had already developed a filter. But you couldn't unsee these things.
LA's homeless are not evil masterminds and drug addicts. The ones I've seen were disturbed and sick, in dire need of help.
Why is Los Angles swarmed with homeless men and women?
The problem roots back to the Great Depression, according to UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. World War II further exacerbated the problems of affordable Housing, which continued to persist over the past decades.
- Great Depression devastated the American economy and created the homeless crisis.
- World War II was another catalyst for the lack of Affordable Housing.
- California started shutting off state-run mental institutions, letting sick people fend for themselves on the streets.
- The criminalization of homelessness created a class of people who would periodically sleep between prisons and streets.
- Relatively stable weather and opportunity attracted the homeless to seek better street conditions in Los Angles, San Francisco, and other California cities.
The zero-tolerance policy on crime in areas of Skid Row and other homeless hubs has shuffled some of the poor and mentally ill people between the justice system and the streets. This policy added more fuel to the already burning issue, hurting taxpayers in the process.
Punishing mentally ill people for their woes seems like a disturbing policy to begin. The cost of human life and taxpayers' money is unbearable.
How can one of the wealthiest cities on the planet face a homeless crisis?
Some people say that "America is a 3rd world country wearing a Gucci Belt." T
The meme joke is funny because it rings true to everyone who has ever walked the streets of any American city.
Extreme poverty lives next door to the Billionaire's row. Median home prices in Los Angles county are $583,200, with a median income of $68,044, according to Census Bureau. The standard lives in the City should be among the best in its class until you take poverty into account.
Almost 18% of Angelinos are deprived of necessities. Some 66,000 people live without a permanent address. And almost 72% of them have no shelter or roof over their head, meaning that they sleep on the hot asphalt of a near-desert city.
The lack of money is the root of the problem. Most homeless couldn't afford to pay rent or mortgage after losing their job and ended in the streets.
Only San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland fare worse in comparison. These cities have even more homeless people that can't find any shelter in the City.
To make these matters even worse, California's 11,000 veterans accounted for 31% of all homeless in the United States.
Homelessness was on a steady decline in Los Angeles, which changed last year. However, the numbers are ticking upward again as more people default on their loans and lose their jobs and benefits.
The Biden Administration is reinstating the Housing First project. This social strategy aims to eliminate veteran homelessness by expanding access to community-based housing services for those who don't qualify for Veteran Care. The Housing First project is an evidence-based approach to tackling the homeless crisis, and it has been steadily improving lives across the board. Unfortunately, the Trump administration removed fair housing protection and constantly pressured budget cuts for social programs, further exacerbating the crisis. We can't say for sure, but the Trump administration could be partially responsible for the 2019 and 2020 increase in homelessness across the United States, including Los Angeles.
Biden's American Rescue Plan tackles the homeless crisis from multiple angles, and we're yet to see its merit.
Homeless shelters near me
Homeless with an internet connection can type "homeless shelters near me" to find a place where they can get a meal and a bed for the night.
Google records almost 11,000 monthly searches for the term "homeless shelters near me." The results are volatile for the United States, but the data shows a fall in overall search numbers since Biden's administration took the helm.
Search results for local homeless shelters in Los Angeles are also on a decline since their peak in 2019, according to Google Trends.
However, most homeless people don't have access to the internet regularly. These numbers are not conclusive evidence. We need more time and data to assess the effects of large public policies, such as the America Rescue Plan and Housing First.
The City of glamour and broken dreams
Los Angles is a place both rich and poor call home.
I've had a good time in the City.
I've seen the filming of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I've seen red carpets roll and celebrities pass by the daily. I've had Danny Davito yell at me for no apparent reason. And I've enjoyed nights at the Hollywood Bowl, Sunday afternoons at Venice Beach, and strolls down Santa Monica pier.
But I couldn't look away from the human misery around me. One stroll across Hollywood Blv is all it takes to notice the magnitude of this problem.
Los Angeles has it all, and we mean everything between great and horrible. It's not a city for the faint of hearts.
"Tip the world over on its side, and everything loose will land in Los Angeles," When Frank Lloyd Wright said to describe the City."