Homelessness is no stranger issue to society. Pretty much every country and every city has some number of people living on the streets or in a shelter, especially in an unstable economic time like today. However, in the city of Los Angeles, the homelessness problem has been prevalent for what now feels like forever. Growing up I can recall seeing the giant encampments of homeless people alongside the streets, or people asking my family and I for our spare change as we walked on the 3rd street promenade; this unfortunately seems to be a universal experience for all those living in the city. In other words, I doubt that I’m the only person in this class that made their WP3 about homelessness in LA.
The debate about this topic is unique, though. There is no question that homelessness is a crisis that must be amended: to clarify, it isn’t a question of whether or not it’s “good” or “bad.” The debate instead revolves around what kind of action the city and its citizens should be taking to find the homeless a safe, proper home off the streets.
In trying to find the right solution, we must rule out the tactics we have used in the past. I mean, if they had worked, we wouldn’t still be in the homeless crisis we are today. For example, LA mayor Eric Garcetti’s strategy mainly included opening up more temporary housing. The goal, according to Garcetti, is to provide housing “on location, on site, so that eventually we not only put a roof over their heads, but eventually get them on a path to recovery” (Garcetti, 2018). In other words, Garcetti’s plan was to build more temporary shelters that homeless people could access while they searched for permanent housing. Though this plan makes sense on paper, it was very reliant upon the idea that homeless people WANT to be off the streets. I’m not saying that creating more housing is bad, it makes sense: homeless people need houses! But what actually ended up happening was that many people did NOT want to be in those houses, especially after the surge in cases at these facilities. Having taken these factors into consideration, we now know that a “housing first” initiative is not effective.
This is one of many solutions that has failed the homeless population in LA. From mental health facilities, to arrests, to legalizing encampments as temporary housing, the city of LA has not done all that it can to finally give these people the home they deserve. We know what didn’t work, and now we can use what we know to find a solution that does.