THE CITY – One might think from reading the Los Angeles Times recent coverage of the plight of the homeless in Los Angeles that the City would be mobilized to seek out and implement strategies to reduce homelessness. Notwithstanding the sad reality that almost 1 in 5 Los Angeles residents are living in poverty, and that LA is now the homeless capital of the nation, the problem is far from unsolvable.
Cities across the nation have made great strides: New York, Denver, Austin, just to name a few. What Los Angeles lacks compared to these cities is the political will to grapple with the problem in a meaningful way. Instead, the City has relied on a poor substitute for effective social policy – law enforcement.
As the Times has recently documented, the LAPD has been directed to roust homeless people from their hiding places, oversee the seizure and disposal of their personal property, push homeless encampments from one neighborhood to another, and ticket and tow the vehicles of people whose only buffer from the concrete sidewalk is the wheels of their cars.
Striving to stay ahead of the LAPD’s latest geographical focus, the homeless migrate around, first concentrated in Skid Row, then pushed to other neighborhoods in response to the City’s law enforcement directives; then back to Skid Row when residents of those neighborhoods beleaguered by the problems associated with homelessness—real and perceived—demand and get similar levels of law enforcement. While perhaps providing momentary relief to homeowners and temporary reprieve for political leaders, police enforcement does nothing to solve the problem of homelessness.
Housing, affordable to those without means, is the fundamental solution to reducing homelessness. Unfortunately, our mayor has never made housing a priority for his administration, and our city council has also failed to provide the necessary leadership.
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